Juppe offers strike leaders concessions

As public sector strikes in France entered their third week, the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, offered some key concessions last night in the continuing dispute about welfare and pensions reform.

He insisted, however, that reform had to go ahead "to save the system'', and he preserved the central principle that spending on social security would be decided in future by parliament, not, as at present, by a joint committee which includes the trade unions. He also ruled out the possibility of a referendum on the subject.

"I'm not closed to any solution, to any proposal," Mr Juppe said. "I have set the principles. Now there are all the applications to discuss, and I wish to discuss them with parliament and with the unions."

Speaking in a television interview after a two-hour emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the protest strikes that have paralysed the country for more than two weeks, Mr Juppe said he would be prepared to meet union leaders in a "summit" on welfare reform, but not until he had met all union leaders separately. He also conceded the principle of "negotiations'' with the unions, after insisting until now on such terms as "dialogue'' and "consensus-seeking".

Leaders of two major unions, Marc Blondel of the Force Ouvriere and Louis Viannet of the CGT, have called for "negotiations" at prime ministerial level, and recently called for a "summit" on social questions, something Mr Juppe had been resisting. In yesterday's interview, Mr Juppe said he would meet union leaders separately today, and would be ready for a "summit" if necessary. But he did not give the date and time commitment the FO and CGT have asked for.

Mr Juppe did, however, make two significant concessions. He said that the work of the government-appointed commission to consider public-sector pensions would be suspended, at least as far as consideration of "special regimes" pertaining to individual sectors were concerned. Fear that their special arrangements would be abolished has been a major element in the strikes.

His second concession was to allow extra time for railwaymen to discuss the contentious restructuring plan for the state railway company, SNCF.

On Thursday, Mr Juppe announced the appointment of a special mediator to consider the restructuring plan, which was to have been signed this week. Having previously agreed to postpone the signing until after the SNCF 1996 budget is finalised (in another week), Mr Juppe now has conceded that extra time will be needed for talks, effectively suspending the restructuring plan which appeared to threaten unprofitable branchlines, and jobs.

Mr Juppe has, however, stuck to the basic principles of welfare reform and the controversial means of passing them through parliament. He announced to the National Assembly that enabling legislation for welfare reform would be passed as votes of confidence in the government.

The opposition Socialists and Communists, who account for barely 20 per cent of seats in the assembly, have managed to slow passage of the legislation for almost a week on points of order. They were angered by Mr Juppe's decision to table the main points of the legislation in the form of "edicts" - tantamount to a "guillotine" process. Now, each motion will be tabled as a confidence vote. The Socialists immediately responded by tabling a censure motion - their second in a week - against the government.

As wrangling continued, leaders of the FO and CGT yesterday issued new calls to their members to prepare for tomorrow's planned day of nationwide protest. Yesterday saw further big protest marches in several provincial cities.

Today, railways and much urban public transport, as well as schools and many government offices are expected to be idle as the strikes continue.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test