BlackRock and the French pension reform

In 2003 the French socialist politician Pierre Mauroyprime minister during the presidency of François Mitterrand, he published some memoirs, in which he dedicated a few paragraphs to the pension reform, of which he was the architect. “I was marked by the harsh conditions of the workers in the northern steel mills. Every day they had to work with molten steel. At 40 years old it seemed that they were 60. That representation of the working class did not come from Zola, but of the daily reality with which I found myself in my life. They all started working very young, few ever retired, because their life expectancy does not exceed 63 years, with 65 being the retirement age.”

Before Pierre Mauroy’s reform, which in 1983 lowered the retirement age to sixty for all, the unions referred to pensions in his country as the retreat of the dead, because few people reached the age of 65 alive to be able to enjoy their paid rest. After Mitterrand’s victory, even in the case of who it was and with all its lights and shadows, all this changed: they not only approached the retirement age that they had established in the USSR (60 years for men), but they also reduced the working week, increased social benefits, extended paid vacations, etc.

In the last decades, one government after another proposed to “save the social protection system” and each one took one more step towards its demolition. Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform seems to be a further step in the same direction. In addition to raising the retirement age, it is intended to create a kind of universal regime for all French people without exception. High-level executives are not expected to have pay-as-you-go retirement above a certain salary, which looks attractive on paper, but in practice opens the way for pension funds.

Pension funds, or the so-called pension capitalization system, consists of the worker himself saving his contribution in an account managed by an investment fund, and the investment fund invests that contribution in bonds, shares, in any type of asset and in this way it is supposed to make it profitable and multiply it for the end of your working life. Key word: “it is supposed”, because the example of the same Chili It shows that the opposite of what is expected can happen.

I refer to the Chilean example because, just like there, the French government decided, for some reason, to maintain the special retirement regime – that of a lifetime – for police officers, because “they perform functions of protecting the population.” It will be difficult to explain this exception to the protesters when they are faced with the same Police.

In October 2017 the president Emmanuel Macron received in Paris nothing more and nothing less than Larry Fink. Do you remember who it is? Baptized in the media directly as the master of the universeis the president of BlackRockthe investment fund whose fortune is equal to the sum of the GDP of the three largest European economies: of Germany, UK and of his own France.

This man was summoned by the French government to present his reform program. That same year, the president of BlackRock’s headquarters in France, Jean Francois Cirelliwas invited to participate in the Public Action Committee. The committee was created by President Macron and its objective is to identify which structural reforms should be a priority, which cuts should be applied, which transfers to the private sector are convenient for the State do etc

The meeting was not publicly announced and took place in conditions of some opacity, it was widely commented in France after a documentary came out that indicated that Larry Fink had met Macron several times after his election. Finally, the journal Liberation He also confirmed different meetings between the two. In addition to Macron, in 2018 he also met BlackRock representatives, Jean-paul delevoye, the author of the pension reform who in 2019 resigned from his position as high commissioner for pensions due to conflict of interest. He has received money from private companies while working for the Government, something expressly prohibited by the Constitution from that country.

Despite the fact that BlackRock assured in a statement that it in no way tried to influence the reform of the pension system in France, the French unions have accumulated questions, given the number of meetings and links between officials involved in the elaboration of the reform and the lords of the vulture fund.

In June 2019, a document entitled The Pact Law: the right pension plan and the president of BlackRock France, Cirelli, said in a political debate that the investment fund had presented a series of recommendations to contribute to the success of the reform, an “important” reform. “Our recommendations are addressed to the French Government (…), employers and worker representatives” and are intended to make “retirement savings systems more attractive” and promote “access to listed investment funds “.

We assume that for these valuable recommendations, in 2020 Cirelli was elevated to the rank of officer of the legion of honor, which is the most important French decoration that aims to reward exceptional merits in service to the nation. And of course, despite the fact that Cirelli was also an economic adviser to Jacques Chirac and presided over the energy giant GDF-SUEZ, the news about the award fell like a bucket of cold water because it came in full social mobilization for pensions. The first secretary of the Socialist Party French said at the time that the move “was anything but anecdotal” and that “BlackRock is simply the dark side of pension reform.”

It will be time to see if they give in to the protesters’ claims this time, as on previous occasions. After all, the vast majority of France’s social achievements are the result of the class struggle, if not the fear of its governments in the face of the red menace throughout the entire 20th century. Your 35 working hours per week, with a 7-hour working day, your social assistance, paid vacations or pensions. Everything happened thanks to the perpetual struggle of workers who do not ask themselves if it makes sense or not, if something is going to change or not, because they have the neoliberal monster in front of them.

The ruling class, the elites, are also fighting to maintain their privileges. Successive French governments are chaining a series of reforms that perpetuate the neoliberal model: with its elites, with its untouchables, and with its revolving doors. Because curiously, many of those who have done their bit to demolish, little by little, the French social fabric, ended up in highly paid jobs. It is not only a matter of France, as you well know here in Spain.

Former French Prime Minister François Fillon, a supporter of a points system to “lower pensions”, ended up working for the bank barclays, for example. Former Portuguese Prime Minister and former President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Durão BarrosoHe went to Goldman Sachs. A former British Deputy Prime Minister, Nicholas Cleggwas hired by Facebook as director of Public Relations with a salary of more than 4 million euros per year. Then these gentlemen are the ones who say they want to “save the social protection system” or that they want the best for 99% of the population. And we have to believe it.

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