French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he is determined to see through his government's planned pensions reform, but the leader of hardline union CGT said he will fight until the plan is withdrawn, the two men said in interviews published on Sunday.
French transport systems were paralyzed for a fourth day on Sunday as unions at state railway SNCF and Paris public transport system RATP maintained their strike against the reform. "I am determined to take this pension reform to its completion and I will do this respectfully and I will address people's concerns about it," Philippe told weekly Le Journal du Dimanche.
"If we do not implement a thorough, serious and progressive reform today, someone else will do one tomorrow, but really brutally," he added. Philippe said on Friday that he will present a detailed outline of the pension reform plan on Wednesday.
CGT leader Philippe Martinez said his union would keep up its protest until the government drops the plan. "We will continue until the plan is withdrawn," he told the JDD. "Let (Philippe) listen to people's anger. Let him say that only idiots never change their minds. Let him go back to square one," Martinez said, adding that "there is nothing good" in the government reform plan.
France has one of the most generous pension systems among OECD countries. President Emmanuel Macron was elected in 2017 on a platform to liberalize the economy and reform the pension system. Macron wants to introduce a pension system with equal rights for everyone and to do away with a set of sub-systems under which some workers at SNCF, RATP and other institutions can retire in their early fifties, a decade ahead of others.
Unions are planning a second demonstration on Tuesday, following a first demonstration in Paris on Thursday, when 65,000 people marched in Paris and 806,000 took part in protests nationwide, according to police figures.