French Labour Minister Oliver Dussopt said on Wednesday (February 1) that raising the retirement age to 64 was non-negotiable, a day after more than a million people marched in protest at the proposed measure and a union leader called for rolling strikes, Reuters reports.
Opinion polls show a substantial majority in France oppose increasing the retirement age to 64 from 62, a move President Emmanuel Macron argues is vital to ensuring the viability of the pension system.
A total of 1.272 million people took part in the protests nationwide on Tuesday (January 31), up slightly from the first nationwide demonstration on Jan. 19, the Interior Ministry said.
"If we do not go to 64, the pension system will not break even," Dussopt told France 2 Television.
"Mobilization was large, this should lead us to continue to explain and convince," he added.
Hard-left CGT Union leader Philippe Martinez called for more industrial action, accusing the government of playing down opposition to its reform.
""I think it's even the prime minister and the president who are inciting us to go harder," he told France Inter radio. "Because the government is trying to minimise the discontent, we'll have to step it up."
For unions, the challenge however will be maintaining walkouts at a time when high inflation is eroding salaries.
Union leaders at a joint news conference at the end of the march on Tuesday said they would organize more strikes and demonstrations against the reform on Feb. 7, a Tuesday, but also on Feb. 11, a Saturday when most people are not working.