Tensions rise in France after Macron refuses to meet with unions to discuss pension reform

Some 300,000 protesters took to the country’s streets in another act against the French leader’s project; The Houses of Parliament have until March 26 to approve it

Emmanuel DUNAND / AFPdemonstrations in France
Protesters gather near a poster depicting French President Emmanuel Macron as former French monarch Louis XIV during a demonstration as part of a national day of strikes and protests called by unions against proposed pension reforms.

Since mid-January, France faces a wave of demonstrations against the pension reform planned by the president Emmanuel Macron. This Saturday, the 11th, around 300,000 people took to the streets again to demonstrate their discontent, which grew even more on Friday after the French leader refused to meet with the unions. “When millions of people are on the streets, when there are strikes and all you get from the other side is silence, people ask: What else do we have to do to be heard?” said Philippe Martinez, leader of the CGT union. before calling a referendum on pension reform. Despite popular revolts with the project, given the drop in the number of accessions in the demonstrations that took place for the seventh consecutive day, the French senate approved the evening of this Saturday, the 11th, with 195 votes in favor and 112 against, the controversial social security reform – this is the first step towards final approval. “An important step was taken tonight with a broad vote on the pension reform text in the Senate,” said Elisabeth Borne, Prime Minister of France. “Despite attempts at obstruction by some groups, the democratic debate continued,” he added. She is confident that the majority in Parliament will vote in favor of the text, which continues its legislative journey next week, with the vote scheduled for Thursday, the 16th, in the National Assembly (Lower House).

The mobilization in France entered a new phase on Tuesday, the 7th, with the largest protest to date, 1.8 million demonstrators, according to the authorities, and 3.5 million, according to the CGT union, and the beginning of extended strikes. The demonstrations aim to force the government to withdraw the draft law that aims to push the retirement age from 62 to 64 from 2030 and foresee the obligation of contributions for 43 years until 2027 (and not 42, as it is currently) to receive the full pension. After five major peaceful demonstrations in January and February, the unions decided to intensify their fight in the face of the Macron government and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne’s refusal to withdraw from the measure. In this new phase, in addition to road closures, important ports in Le Havre, Rouen and Marseille were temporarily blocked and striking workers in the electricity sector continue to reduce electricity production. There were also cancellations of train journeys and public transport disruptions. A new demonstration is planned for next week and will probably take place on Wednesday the 15th.

strike in France

French trade unionists march behind a banner reading “Pension reform, not another day” during a nationwide strike against pension reform │EFE/EPA/YOAN VALAT

Even in the face of discontent – according to polls, two-thirds of the French are against this change – the government chose a controversial parliamentary procedure – a project that changes the social security financing law – which limits the analysis time and facilitates the application of the apartment. The two houses of Parliament now have until March 26 to approve the same text. Alternatively, the government could enforce the measure by ordinance from that date, something that has never happened. The Senate (Upper House), controlled by the right-wing opposition in favor of reform, has until Sunday, the 12th, to vote on the measure. In the National Assembly (Lower House), the mandate expired without doing so. Next week, representatives of both chambers must meet to reach a common text, on which deputies and senators must talk again, or at least try to, possibly on March 16.

*With information from AFP

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