French government determined on pension reform as strikes continue

Transport systems were paralyzed for a fourth day on Sunday as unions at state railway SNCF and Paris public transport system RATP extended their strike. (AFP)
Updated 08 December 2019

French government determined on pension reform as strikes continue

  • Transport systems were paralyzed for a fourth day on Sunday as unions at state railway SNCF and Paris public transport system RATP extended their strike

PARIS: The French government said it would see through planned pension reforms but said the new system that has sparked nationwide strikes would be introduced gradually and public concerns would be addressed.
Transport systems were paralyzed for a fourth day on Sunday as unions at state railway SNCF and Paris public transport system RATP extended their strike against the changes.
“I am determined to take this pension reform to its completion and ... I will address people’s concerns about it,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told Le Journal du Dimanche.
“If we do not implement a thorough, serious and progressive reform today, someone else will do one tomorrow, but really brutally,” he told the weekly publication.
Philippe has said he would present a detailed outline of the pension reform plan on Wednesday.
Deputy Environment Minister Emmanuel Wargon told radio France Info the government would be flexible about both the timeline and implementation of the reforms.
“Timelines may be relaxed if necessary and we may differentiate how each special pension system converges with the new system under different deadlines and terms,” she said.
She said a date would be set to implement the new system but people’s pension rights would be calculated proportionally based on how much time they had worked under the new and old systems.
“Some say that everybody will lose under the new system. Not everybody will lose. It will be rather positive for a significant part of French citizens,” she said.
Philippe Martinez, the leader of the CGT union, said the CGT would fight until the government dropped the plan.
“We will continue until the plan is withdrawn,” he told the JDD, saying the prime minister should “go back to square one.”
France has one of the most generous pension systems among countries in the OECD grouping of industrialized nations.
President Emmanuel Macron was elected in 2017 on a platform to liberalize the economy and reform the pension system.
Macron wants to introduce a pension system with equal rights for everyone and to do away with a set of sub-systems under which some workers at SNCF, RATP and other institutions can retire in their early fifties, a decade ahead of others.
Unions plan a second demonstration on Tuesday, after a Thursday’s first protest attracted 65,000 people in Paris and 806,000 nationwide, according to police figures.


Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Updated 23 January 2020

Singapore confirms first case of Wuhan virus

Singapore Thursday confirmed its first case of the new SARS-like virus which has killed 17 people in China and spread to multiple countries including the United States.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the patient was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan who arrived in Singapore with his family on Monday.
He was immediately isolated after arriving at a hospital with a fever and cough, and test results later confirmed he was infected with the coronavirus.
One of his traveling companions, a 37-year-old man from Wuhan, has also been admitted to hospital as a suspect case.
Prior to admission, they had stayed at a hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, the ministry said.
It added that Singapore was expecting more cases and alarms “given the high volume of international travel.”
Moreover, tourists leaving Bangkok for China said on Thursday they were worried about the spread of the Wuhan virus, ahead of more air and train travel in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year holidays.
China has placed Wuhan, a city of 11 million, on lockdown, as it is considered the epicenter of a new coronavirus outbreak that has killed 17 and infected nearly 600.
Thailand has so far confirmed four cases of coronavirus, the largest number outside China. Two of the cases were Chinese women who have since been allowed to return home. Chinese tourists make up the largest group of visitors to Thailand.
At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, masked visitors lined up as usual to check in for Southern China Airlines flights back to China.
AirAsia said on Thursday it has canceled direct flights between Wuhan and cities in Thailand and Malaysia until Jan 28.
Matt Thomas, who lives in the Chinese city of Xian, said he was worried about the new Chinese virus, especially because he once contracted swine flu which he described as “awful.”
“I’m a bit worried that it will repeat. I have just got to be safe. In these sorts of situations, you know, take everything seriously, don’t take any risks,” Thomas said.
Chinese health officials fear the transmission rate will accelerate, as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel at home and abroad during week-long holidays for the Lunar New Year.