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Architect of French pension reform resigns as strikes drag on

Jean-Paul Delevoye prepared the pension plans for two years before being appointed in September to drive the reform programme.

Commuters at the crowded Gare Saint Lazare station in Paris (Francois Mori/AP)
Commuters at the crowded Gare Saint Lazare station in Paris (Francois Mori/AP)

By Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron suffered a major blow Monday, when the key architect of the pension overhaul resigned over alleged conflict of interests.

His resignation came on the 12th day of transport strikes against the planned changes.

The announcement came at a crucial time – just before a new round of protests planned Tuesday across France and as the government was preparing for last-minute talks with workers’ unions ahead of the Christmas season.

The French presidency said Mr Macron accepted “with regret” the resignation of High Commissioner Jean-Paul Delevoye, a 72-year-old politician who prepared the pension plans for two years before being appointed in September to drive the reform programme.

He was notably in charge of talks with workers’ unions and professional organisations.

Mr Macron’s office stressed Mr Delevoye’s “work and commitment” and said the decision was needed in order to preserve the next steps of reform.

Mr Delevoye was under fire from the opposition and unions after French newspapers Le Parisien and Le Monde reported last week that he had not mentioned some of his activities in the formal declaration required from all government members to avoid potential conflicts of interests.

Mr Delevoye acknowledged a “mistake,” saying he “forgot” to declare several positions, some in the insurance and banking sectors, a think tank and one at the foundation of national rail company SNCF.

Mr Macron’s office said Mr Delevoye will be replaced “as soon as possible.”

Mr Macron has said he wants the government to push ahead with the pension changes, which include raising the age of retirement with full pension from 62 to 64 and ending special privileges for some workers.

Meanwhile, major unions said they want to push the strike through to Christmas.

Authorities measured a record traffic jam of 390 miles on Monday morning in the Paris region, where only two Metro lines, using automated trains with no drivers, were fully running.

The other 14 metro lines were closed or only very partially running.

Most regional and national trains were at a standstill. International train routes also suffered disruptions.

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Commuters wait for a bus in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP)

Lorry drivers launched a separate protest movement on Monday, staging road blockages across France to demand better salaries and working conditions.

The strikes involve mostly public sector workers, including train drivers, teachers and hospital employees, who fear they will have to work longer for lower pensions.

Polls suggest most French support the protest movement. Yet some commuters were losing patience in Paris as they waited for rare trains on overflowing platforms.

Laurence Sturm came from the town of Troyes, east of Paris, to work in the capital.

She told The Associated Press that the strike cost her hotel nights and some of her days off “just to be able to go to work”.

Unions “are fighting for their privileges, and we are paying for it”, she said. “I’ll never be able to retire at 55 or 60 years old. I’ll have to work until 64 years old to get a full pension, and I’m paying for theirs.”

PA

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