French sewer cleaners reject pension reform

STORY: Guillaume Konrad works in Paris sewers to supervise emergency cleaning and repair work.

He loves the job, but it's tough - and he's not happy with the government's new plan to make him work longer.

Authorities announced this week the French will have to work two years more than planned, to 64, before retiring.

For Konrad, that sounds a lot, mainly when his work sees him crouching in dark tunnels filled with overflowing fecal matter and rats.

"It is a profession that is still extremely exposed to danger. The danger is everywhere and it's specific, if we did a survey on working conditions, and we want to see the worst of them, I think that in the sanitation network, we have everything."

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Tuesday that from 2027 French people will need to have worked 43 years to get a full pension.

The government says this is needed to balance the accounts.

Trade unions rejected the argument, and have vowed a tough fight to stop the reform.

Konrad said he will take to the streets in a nationwide day of strikes on January 19th along with some of his co-workers.

One of them is 53-year-old Stephane.

He has worked in Paris' 24/7 emergency sewage repair team for 25 years.

"It's going to be very very complicated to manage, because we have all these constraints and it's already an issue to retire late and if we add another two years to that, it will be extremely hard to accept and I don't really see how we are going to be able to do it. We really suffer at the physical level, we really suffer."

Konrad's team can currently retire at 52 due to how hard their job is, and provided they work their full career there.

The new system would see their retirement age rise to 54.

Sewer works in some other cities, and supervisors like Konrad, don't get the early retirement option.