French unions seek retirement age guarantees for seafarers under new pensions reform

15 August 2019

French maritime officers' unions are seeking guarantees that existing early retirement arrangements for seafarers will remain under the government's proposed pensions reform.

Published on Thursday 18 July, a government report advocates the establishment of a universal pensions system to replace 42 existing schemes, with a full pension only available from the age of 64, two years later than now. Under the present system, seafarers can retire at 55.

The report states that the transition to a universal pensions regime, proposed by President Macron during his 2017 presidential campaign, could take up to 15 years and would be on the basis of consultation with the unions of each sector and industry.

While it only mentions the maritime sector in two short passages, the 130-page document says there will be the opportunity for arbitration over the principle of maintaining early retirement arrangements for seafarers, taking on board the length of time spent at sea.

The French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) says it will remain 'vigilant' as further details are revealed. Meanwhile, the French Confederation of Managers - General Confederation of Managers (CFE-CGC) accepts that the seafarers' pensions regime does not become part of the universal system and that present retirement ages are not negotiable.

Jean-Philippe Chateil, general secretary of the FOMM-CGT officers union said the report's criteria are not sufficiently clear. 'Time spent at sea is not at all calculated in the same way for deep-sea seafarers and those engaged in port tug activity. And we are concerned that the present basic system and retirement at 55 may not be maintained.'