This Thursday, March 16, Elisabeth Borne engaged the responsibility of her government to pass the pension reform using article 49.3 of the Constitution. After several weeks of mobilization and heated debates, the qualifiers were numerous to rain on the Minister of Labor in charge of one of the most unpopular files of the presidency of Emmanuel Macron. “Punching-ball”, “traitor”, “impostor”, “murderer”… But who is Olivier Dussopt?

According to some of his relatives, his discretion is almost a “cult of secrecy”. “I will not be on the cover of Paris Match cooking. Everyone has their own private garden and I consider that where I go on vacation is of no interest to anyone,” he says. However, he agreed to confide in our colleagues from France Info, in his office on rue de Grenelle, Friday March 10, in Paris. The opportunity to look back on his journey.

The 44-year-old has had several intense weeks since the start of legislative work on pension reform. He had to make several sacrifices. “I sometimes have to skip my abs session in the morning.” He also reveals to our colleagues from France Info to do without television and reading for several days and to sleep only three or four hours a night.

It must be said that Olivier Dussopt is known for his great capacity for work. France’s youngest deputy in 2007 at the age of 29, he cut his teeth in the Socialist Party. His path to the ministry was long and difficult.

“I know what it is to be a class defector. Nothing in my career predestined me to become a minister or a deputy”, declares Olivier Dussopt to our colleagues from France Info.

Born into a modest family, in Annonay (Ardèche), the young man confided in Liberation in 2007 when he was elected as a deputy. He is then the youngest of the Assembly. This son of coachbuilders does not forget where he comes from, saying to himself “one foot in Paris, one foot in the Ardèche.” He forged a shell following the loss of his brother in 2004, in a motorcycle accident, and that of his father in 2006.

A brilliant high school student, he was directed to Sciences Po Grenoble by one of his teachers. “I immediately felt his intention to go quickly. He is talented, impatient. Politics is his whole life”, recalls the regional councilor (PS) of Ardèche Hervé Saulignac. “He started his career with bite, going for his first mandates with his teeth.”

In 2011, everything accelerated for the young deputy who was appointed spokesperson for Martine Aubry’s campaign during the primary. In 2016, he became one of Manuel Valls’ campaign spokespersons. Over the years, he asserts himself as a hard worker. “He’s a hard worker, almost a robot, his life is regulated like music paper”, describes one of his former comrades from the PS to our colleagues from France Info.

In 2017, he was appointed Secretary of State to the Minister for Action and Public Accounts, Gérald Darmanin, in the second Édouard Philippe government. He worked on the reform of the civil service in 2019. In 2022, he was appointed Minister of Labor in the Élisabeth Borne government and worked on the reform of unemployment insurance.

Then comes the turn of retreats. “When he told me that he was going to manage the ‘pensions’ file, I said to him: ‘You are completely crazy’! But he wanted to do it. This law is too complicated. There is only one Olivier Dussopt to master this, with his fussy and meticulous character”, admires a friend from Ardèche.

“He does not complain for nothing, he does not create problems and tries to find solutions”, confides Edouard Philippe to our colleagues from France Info. Surely the reasons why he was entrusted with a file as complex as that of pension reform. “He lost very little footing, while everything was done to sink him,” recognizes MP Stéphane Viry (LR).

“He served as a punching bag a bit,” said a PS deputy. The attacks were numerous. Much of it came from leftist MPs. MP Thomas Portes (LFI) posted a photo on social networks where he puts his foot on a ball bearing the image of the Minister of Labour. Aurélien Saintoul, LFI deputy, described Olivier Dussopt as an “impostor” and “murderer”.

The Minister lost his calm at the end of the debates in the Assembly, apostrophizing the LFI deputies, his voice broken. Returning to the event with our colleagues from France Info, he said: “There is fatigue, fed up, tension and a completely screwed up voice. And there is anger, because I knew that it had been weeks since the LFI deputies wanted to crack me up.”

The LFI deputies notably reconsidered his past positions, unlike those he now defends with the pension reform. “The accusations of treason have calmed down over time, but the pension reform has relaunched them. With this text, he can no longer be deluded,” said a PS deputy.

During his political career, Olivier Dussopt navigated within various currents of the left. In November 2017, he definitively turned his back on the PS when he was offered the post of Secretary of State. However, he hesitates for a moment. “At the time, he calls me to say: ‘What am I doing?’ I answer him: ‘You know very well what you are going to do’, but I also warn him that he is going to take a beating”, says a PS deputy at the microphone of France Info.

Accusations of treason have continued to multiply. Olivier Faure, boss of the PS, launched to him, from the tribune of the Assembly, “I am ashamed for you”. On Twitter, MP LFI Manon Aubry wrote: “He deserves his trophy as a traitor to the social cause”.

The young socialist deputy Inaki Echaniz recited, word for word, a speech that Olivier Dussopt had given when he was a young PS deputy. At the time, he himself opposed a pension reform carried out by the Fillon government. “The sequence worked better than I had hoped, because it shows how much he has put all his convictions aside for a ministerial morocco”, condemns Inaki Echaniz at the microphone of France Info.

Olivier Dussopt acknowledges having “evolved” in his positions after the Hollande five-year term. He who declared in 2007 to our colleagues from Liberation, wanting to be a deputy “clearly on the left. Asking who we are, what is the basis of our convictions, then defining our room for maneuver, yes. But renouncing our values ​​to go towards a forced conversion to social liberalism, I refuse”.

While he had denounced the “contempt” of Emmanuel Macron in 2014, when he had described the workers of Gad as “illiterate”, he now seems to have good relations with the head of state. “He is above all my boss, the one I have chosen to serve. But he is also an endearing, considerate man and I appreciate his trust”, explains Olivier Dussopt.

After the pension reform, the Minister of Labor is already planning on the immigration law and the law on “full employment”. However, since the commitment of the responsibility of the Elisabeth Borne government with the recourse to article 49.3 of the Constitution, a reshuffle could thwart its projects.