Retraites Report

'You can't work underground over the age of 60': why Marseille's sewer staff oppose pension reform

Unlike their counterparts in Paris, who can retire at the age of 52, sewer workers in Marseille are employed by a private company. This means they have to keep working until they reach 62 – and this will increase to 64 if the current pension reform plans are passed. These workers in the Mediterranean city are bitterly opposed to any extension of their retirement age and believe they should be able to end their careers earlier, not later. They described their cramped, smelly and hazardous subterranean working life to Khedidja Zerouali.

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France has some 800 sewer workers who walk miles underground every day in cramped surroundings, in the dark, and sometimes breathing in toxic fumes. Paris has just under 300 such workers, the city of Marseille in the south around one hundred. Yves Biagioni is one of them.

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