French PM open to talks on pension proposals which have sparked mass protest

French PM open to talks on pension proposals which have sparked mass protest

The French prime minister has told the unions behind a crippling railway strike that he is open to backing down on controversial proposals to raise the full pension age to 64.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe wrote to unions one day after the French government and labour representatives engaged in talks that had seemed to end in stalemate after more than a month of strikes and protests.

Riot police officers charge  protesters amid a demonstration in Paris against proposed pension reforms (Francois Mori/AP)
Riot police officers charge protesters amid a demonstration in Paris against proposed pension reforms (Francois Mori/AP)

Mr Philippe’s letter said the plan to raise the age of eligibility from 62 to 64 – the unions’ major sticking point in wide-ranging pension reforms – is open to negotiation.

It was the first time the French government overtly indicated room for movement on the retirement age issue. The overture could signal hope for ending France’s longest transport strikes in decades.

However, Mr Philippe said any compromise is contingent on first finding a way of paying for the pensions system in a country where a record number of people are aged over 90.

On Saturday, protesters in Paris marched through the streets to denounce the French government’s overall pension changes.

A group of women chanted slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron as part of the protest (Francois Mori/AP)
A group of women chanted slogans against French President Emmanuel Macron as part of the protest (Francois Mori/AP)

In scenes that have become all too familiar to Parisians, demonstrators set fire to a kiosk near Bastille square in the centre of the city as a minority of demonstrators in the march got rowdy.

Police fired tear gas briefly as minor scuffles broke out.

Two days earlier, hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets nationwide to denounce the government’s pension proposals.

The unions have planned further action for next week to keep up pressure on the government.

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