In blow to Macron, France pensions reform chief resigns

Jean-Paul Delevoye quits after media says he failed to declare posts held in parallel to his cabinet position.

    Jean-Paul Delevoye, who had a leading role in planned pension reforms, failed to disclose a high-paying private-sector job while he was in government [Dominique Faget/AFP]
    Jean-Paul Delevoye, who had a leading role in planned pension reforms, failed to disclose a high-paying private-sector job while he was in government [Dominique Faget/AFP]

    The French commissioner overseeing controversial pension system reforms that have resulted in a crippling transport strike resigned on Monday after failing to disclose a high-paying private-sector job while he was in government, the presidency said.

    Jean-Paul Delevoye's resignation came as French commuters endured a twelfth day of misery on Monday as the government and unions traded blame for the strike.

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    French President Emmanuel Macron's office said Delevoye would be replaced "as soon as possible".

    In a statement to AFP news agency, Delevoye said his credibility had been undermined by "violent attacks" by unions and opposition leaders seeking to discredit a pensions overhaul he said "is essential for France". 

    Some 630 kilometres (390 miles) of traffic jams clogged Paris and its suburbs during Monday's morning rush hour, nearly double the average levels, as most metro lines were again closed or operating just a handful of trains.

    Across France, just one in three high-speed TGV trains and one in four regional trains were running, though most cities were not enduring the chaos seen in the capital.

    Unions plan a fresh day of mass demonstrations on Tuesday and insist the government must abandon planned pension reforms that they say could force millions of people to work longer before retiring.

    Mass walkouts are again expected by teachers, hospital workers and other public employees as well as by lawyers protesting against plans to introduce a single pension system that would do away with 42 separate regimes.

    The government has said it is willing to negotiate, in particular a "pivot age" of 64 that would grant rights to a full pension, but has defended a key project of Macron's wide-reaching reform drive.

    "Going on strike is legitimate, but you can also respect events like the year-end festivities," Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne told France 2 television, saying it would be "irresponsible" of union leaders to "ruin vacations".

    Rail operator SNCF has already warned that unless the strike ends in a few days, it will not have time to return services to normal by December 25.

    Unions say Macron wants to strip workers of hard-earned benefits and threatens their quality of life. The strikes have followed months of negotiations.

    "If the government drops its project and we start serious talks on how to improve the system ... everything will be fine," Philippe Martinez of the hardline CGT union warned on Sunday. "Otherwise, the strikers will decide on what to do on Thursday or Friday."

    SOURCE: News agencies