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16.02.2020 Europe

Macon's pension reform plans on slippery slope as ski resort workers strike

Creative Commons/Frédérique Voisin-Demery
LISTEN FEB 16, 2020
Creative Commons/Frédérique Voisin-Demery

French protests at planned labour reforms reached ski resorts on Saturday, with chairlift operators and other seasonal staff downing tools over fears their livelihoods could be on a slippery slope.

Hundreds of staff at a clutch of resorts in the Alps and Pyrenees walked out in response to calls for action by the CGT and FO unions, forcing some runs to be closed or partially closed.

They are concerned that reforms extending the required period of employment before people are eligible benefits, set to take effect from April 1, could stop thousands of seasonal workers from claiming.

Some voiced their protest in song at the bottom of pistes at Serre-Chevalier close to the Italian border, chanting: "We're going down the mountain to get rid of Macron," referring to French President Emmanuel Macron.

The French leader's attempts to overhaul pensions and welfare have led to months of bitter protests and strikes.

"Our situation will become even more precarious with these reforms," explained Christophe Dupuis, who works as a ski patroller at La Plagne, one of the world's most popular ski areas.

"We will need six months instead of four before we can apply for unemployment benefit," added Dupuis, who works as a lifeguard during the summer.

"We don't have six-month seasons, not least as the winter seasons are tending to get shorter rather than longer," said Maud Goret, a seasonal worker and CGT member at Font-Romeu in the Pyrenees -- where half the workforce had downed tools.

Many relatively low altitude resorts are suffering from a lack of snow owing to climate change, compounding fears over what the future holds.

Fabrice Michaud, a senior CGT official, said the planned reforms could ultimately lead to staff shortages at some resorts, where skiing is a large contributor to the local economy across the winter months.

Those fears were echoed by Blandine Vernardet, a manager at Grand Tourmalet resort in the Pyrenees, where two thirds of staff were off work Saturday.

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