Berger (CFDT) and Martinez (CGT) display their first disagreements

This hadn’t happened for over 10 years. However, on January 19, the CGT and the CFDT marched together to oppose the pension reform project desired by Emmanuel Macron and carried by the government of Elisabeth Borne. But if, with the approach of the new day of mobilization on Tuesday, January 31, the union of radical and reformist unions against this reform holds firm, the first tensions have been observed in recent days. Because the fractures between Philippe Martinez, the secretary general of the CGT and Laurent Berger, boss of the CFDT, have never disappeared, and were displayed in broad daylight during their hearings at the Assembly this Wednesday.

Proof of this is the differences on the method to be applied to try to overcome the government’s project. Philippe Martinez assumes the notice of renewable strikes at the SNCF, at the call of his union, just like the blockages in the oil refineries. Even if it means disrupting the daily lives of the French and their plans for the February holidays.

“We invited our organizations in the departments, in the professions, to take action between January 19 and 31. It is normal for the first leaders to subscribe to what they have proposed. It’s the demonstrations and strikes to bend the government,” he told reporters.

The battle of opinion in everyone’s head

Opposite strategy on the other hand for Laurent Berger, who refuses to harden the movement so as not to alienate the French. According to the boss of the CFDT, who openly displays his disagreements with Philippe Martinez, the classic demonstrations can lead to the abandonment of the reform.

“But does anyone in this country discover that we don’t always agree between the CGT and the CFDT?”, Quipped in front of the press, Laurent Berger. And to add: “However, there, we are united to say that we do not want 64 years. The CFDT, it does not endorse power cuts. It is not to call for a renewable strike in different professional sectors. The hardening at all costs, it is the risk of losing a part of the opinion”, criticizes the union leader.

Because the challenge for the unions remains to keep the public on its side. And facing a government that is mobilizing its troops in the field and on the plateaus to explain the principle of the reform and its necessity to preserve the pay-as-you-go system, the latter intend to win the battle of public opinion.

French people mostly opposed to the reform

But two visions clash once again. Philippe Martinez bets that the French, overwhelmingly unfavorable to the reform, are ready to accept dark days in transport, provided that the mobilization causes the abandonment of the project. Laurent Berger thinks the opposite, which corresponds to his more reformist DNA.

According to a recent survey, 64% of French people support the movement and they are even more numerous (72%) to proclaim their opposition to the pension reform. Still, the government has the means to pass this reform against the street and the unions, however unpopular it may be. And Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne should not even have to draw the weapon of 49-3 during the examination of the text in Parliament, since most of the deputies of the group Les Républicains (LR) seem ready to vote for the reform.

Especially since in 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy had pushed back the retirement age from 60 to 62, despite weeks of demonstrations, strikes and blockages. The determination of Emmanuel Macron, whose popularity – 34% of favorable opinions currently – risks a vertiginous fall, will be put to the test in the months to come.