French President Emmanuel Macron vowed no let-up in his drive to implement far-reaching pension reforms despite a looming winter of strikes by unions angered by the plan, in an interview broadcast on Monday.
Macron told RTL radio that there would be “no complacency or weakness” in pushing through the changes, even if it risked making him more unpopular.
“I want this reform to go to the end, I think it is necessary for the country so I will defend it,” Macron told the radio station in the pre-recorded interview.
“Perhaps it will make me unpopular, and perhaps people will say ‘it is unbearable, all of this for that’,” he acknowledged.
Key French unions have called a major strike on December 5 to protest the reforms that is expected to paralyse public transport and other sectors in the country.
Wildcat strikes last week caused major disruptions on France’s national train operator SNCF while September 13 saw a strike by workers on the Paris metro that virtually brought the entire network to a halt.
Macron plans to implement a universal pension system that would do away with the more advantageous plans enjoyed by workers in a range of sectors, including state transport and utility companies.
During his 2017 presidential campaign, Macron had pledged not to touch the legal retirement age of 62 for most workers.
The reforms unveiled in July, which would harmonise the 42 different pension schemes currently in place, would still allow people to retire at 62, but on a reduced pension.
A full pension would only be available from 64.