On the front page of the press, this Wednesday, January 11, the reactions, in France, to the presentation, yesterday, of the pension reform project. The standoff between the executive and the unions, in the United Kingdom, where the proposal to introduce a minimum service during strikes provokes an outcry. The imminent eviction of environmentalists from Lützerath, a small village in Germany destined to disappear in favor of a coal mine. And the harassing and dangerous daily life of gold diggers in Sierra Leone.
On the front page of the press, the reactions, in France, to the presentation, yesterday, of the pension reform project, a project “of balance, justice and social progress”, according to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
How to Preserve The Pay-as-You-go Pension System With Fewer Assets And More Retirees?
For the government, the answer to this equation is therefore a number: 64. 64 years, “the age of war unearthed by Elisabeth Borne”, according to Liberation, who has not forgotten that this is also the age at which projected the Beatles in the song “When I’m 64”. Paul McCartney then asked this haunting and existential question: “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I am 64?”.
The newspaper notes that the question posed to Elisabeth Borne is certainly “less poetic”, but just as “sensitive”, and doubts that her answer will suit the “millions of French people opposed to the postponement to 64 years old”. “64 years, the great leap backward”: L’Humanité reports the “unanimous” opposition of the unions, which call for a day of mobilization on January 19. For the newspaper, the postponement of the legal retirement age is equivalent to a “collective punishment”, where “all employees will be losers”, in particular the working classes, for whom this reform would even be equivalent to “a condemnation to working until death or living after being overexploited,” according to L’Huma.
For the moment, the government seems to have won a first round, obtaining the support of the right. Despite the support of the Republicans, Kak’s drawing, on the front page of L’Opinion, shows President Macron rather skeptical of his Prime Minister’s project: “You say we have come a long way. We didn’t really get close to the finish.” “But we have strayed significantly from the original project,” she pleads.
The newspaper regrets “the step back from the initial promise of candidate Macron”, who had promised to raise the legal age to 65 – a step back which he perceives as a “concession to procrastination” by Elisabeth Borne and as the “consequence of the ideological collapse of a republican right incapable of defending the value of work”. “But after all, it is better to hold on than to run”, consoles the newspaper, explaining that “to want at the same time to save the finances of the system and to completely overhaul the pension insurance scheme (would have been) suicidal”. L’Opinion, which warns that despite the compromises proposed by Elisabeth Borne, the showdown between her government and the unions has only just begun.
Arm wrestling, also, between the executive and the unions, in the United Kingdom, where the government’s proposal to establish a minimum service in services deemed vital is causing an outcry. The Financial Times reports on the “anger” of union representatives after the Secretary of State for Business presented yesterday, before parliament, a bill establishing a minimum service in certain sectors such as the police and health. According to The I, these new provisions could affect up to 6 million workers, including ambulance workers, who are again on strike today. This bill obviously throws oil on the fire, at a time when the country is going through the most significant social movement since the Thatcher years, in part because of the skyrocketing cost of living in the United Kingdom.
It even risks proving to be counterproductive, since The Guardian reports this morning on the decision of all the unions to organize a major day of mobilization, on February 1, to defend the right to strike. The increasingly tense tussle between the unions and the British government is also evoked in a cartoon by Dave Brown for The Independent, where we see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demonstrating… for the right to prevent the right to strike, followed by its business secretary, Grant Shapps, accused of wanting to put balls and chains at the feet of the workers. “Workers everywhere, you have nothing to lose but your chains,” reads the prime minister’s placard.
In Germany, the eviction of environmental activists from Lützerath, a small village in the west of the country doomed to disappear in favor of a coal mine, is due to begin today. The Rheinische Post announces an ‘imminent’ evacuation and reports fears of an ‘escalation’ between law enforcement and the 1,000 environmental activists who have made the place a symbol of opposition to coal and fossil fuels and let it be known that they will not leave of their own free will.
Joined by hundreds of activists arriving as reinforcements from all over the country and from Europe, the historical occupants of Lützerath want to prevent the energy group RWE, owner of the place, from destroying what remains of the village to expand a lignite mine – a rearguard fight, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, very critical of German environmentalists, whose mobilization for the exit from nuclear power, would have precisely resulted in delaying, according to him, the exit from coal. Coal mining, and the way it “devours” the landscape, is illustrated by satellite photos, published by the magazine Der Spiegel. Snapshots that show how lignite mining has engulfed an entire landscape.
From coal mining to gold mining. A glance, before leaving you, at Liberation, with a report in Sierra Leone. In this country ravaged by civil war in the 90s, where 75% of women over the age of 15 are illiterate, Libé’s special envoys met hundreds of them, who work in illegal mines in the middle of the jungle. An activity as exhausting as it is dangerous, to which these women devote themselves in the hope of a derisory salary.
This article is originally published on france24.com