Scrap the government’s project for pension reform!

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
July 22, 2019

Many pensioners participated in the Yellow Vest Movement to protest against the low level of their pensions. It must have made President Macron more cautious because he has just postponed pension reform until 2020. He has promised "months of debate and consultation" based on the proposals made by High-Commissioner Delevoye. He probably hopes that the pill will be easier to swallow if it’s diluted.

As usual, the government justifies the reform by the growing number of pensioners and the ever smaller number of working people. Yet labor productivity continues to increase and each worker creates more wealth than ever. But the economic crisis causes the workers’ share of the riches they create to be constantly reduced in order to increase the profits of capitalists.

The reform is therefore intended to empty the pockets of all working people. In the name of so-called “justice”, it wants to abolish the 42 “special” retirement schemes that are still applicable--particularly in the civil service sector. “Justice" as the government understands it means robbing each and every worker and imposing the same setbacks on them.

For instance, the government wants to change how pensions are calculated by replacing the current system which is based on workers’ earnings during the best 25 years (or the last six months) with a points system that would add up the “retirement points” accumulated by a worker throughout his working life. If this project is implemented it would be particularly harmful to the most vulnerable workers--those who are forced to accept part-time work or temporary contracts for minimum wages in between periods of unemployment. Under the new rules, they would have to accept even lower pensions because of the low number of points accumulated.

Women workers, homecare workers, housemaids or cashiers, those who are the most affected by imposed part-time work and interruptions for family reasons, would be the first victims of what Macron dares to call a "fairer and simpler" project.

In the points system, on the other hand, the value of a single point could change according to the economic and demographic situation--that is, according to the wishes of the government and the big bosses. And to top it all off with a layer of hypocrisy, the reform postpones the age of retirement while pretending not to touch it. In reality, retiring at 62 would mean accepting a pension reduced by 10%!

Macron's proposed reform continues and aggravates previous policies. In 1993, Balladur increased the number of years of pensionable service from 37.5 to 40 and in 2010 Sarkozy’s government raised the legal retirement age to 62. As for the left, it was outraged when in opposition but once in government it was careful not to question the successive reforms demanded by the big bosses.

With this reform, capitalists will be able to wear out the workers they need to ensure ever-increasing profits. As for those workers who are sacked at 50, 55 or 60 years of age, a lot of them will still be unemployed--and stripped of their rights to some benefits--when they reach retirement age. As a consequence, their pension will be minimal.

Delevoye claims that his points system "offers everyone the possibility to choose their retirement age" by scrapping the current social approach to pensions based on the number of trimesters of workers’ contributions and years of work. His reform would indeed individualize the pension system even more, but the only ones who can pretend that this reform will mean more”freedom” for working people are the grovelling bootlickers of the capital owners.

Workers' lives depend on the constraints that are imposed by capitalist exploitation: the job they find, the salary they get, the number of hours they work, how fast they work, the neighborhood where they live. Retirement is no exception. Big business and the politicians who defend their interests dream of a world in which workers are isolated  and constantly forced into making individual choices.

The interests of the working class are completely different. Workers keep the whole of society running, from production to transportation, from construction to trade, from patient care to educating youth. Workers play an essential role in the economy. They are at the heart of production and that is their strength. 

Capitalists are waging war on all fronts: on wages, jobs and pensions. We must stop them from driving us under but we can only do so by fighting together as one social class conscious of our common interests.

There will be new days of protest at the beginning of the school year starting with the one called for by the CGT on September 24. These will be new opportunities to mobilize against these attacks.