Fri, 02 June 2023
The Daily Ittefaq

France: Fresh protests over pensions reforms

Update : 07 Apr 2023, 02:00

Anti-pension reform protesters again flooded the streets of cities around France on the 11th day of organized action against the unpopular proposal.

There were more mass strikes, protests, and in some cases unrest across France on Thursday in opposition to President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform.

The demonstrations are the 11th formal call to strike from trade unions to protests the government's new law, controversially passed by decree. It came immediately after trade union leaders walked out of talks with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Wednesday.

Although mainly peaceful, as usual there were reports of violence by more extreme groups.

Labour unions have vowed to stand firm and have demanded that the unpopular pension reform — which lifts the age of retirement from 62 to 64 years — be withdrawn.

"There is no other solution than withdrawing the reform," leader of the CGT union, Sophie Binet, said at the beginning of the Paris rally.

France's retirement age is much lower than most of western Europe, where it tends to be 65 or higher, often with plans in place to increase it in the coming years. Macron and his government argue that the French system is not financially sustainable.

Macron tried and failed to implement the same reform in his first term, but his decision last month to bypass a vote on it in the lower house of the parliament, the National Assembly, prompted the major demonstrations.

Authorities were expecting upwards of 800,000 protestors to turn out nationwide but the Interior Ministry put the figure at roughly 570,000 on Thursday evening. That's a fairly far cry from the first days of protests where unions would report upwards of a million participants.

The protests caused disruptions in the capital city, with reports that access to part of Charles de Gaulle Airport had been cut off, while roads and universities had also been blocked at a number of locations.

Demonstrators also forced their way into the building that houses BlackRock's offices, a major Wall Street investment firm.

While in the Western city of Nantes there were confrontations between police and protesters, with tear gas being used in an attempt to try and disperse crowds.

France's Constitutional Council is set to issue a verdict on the constitutionality of the contested bill on April 14.

The council has the power to scrap some or all of the bill, if it is deemed unconstitutional, however in practice, it rarely ever strikes down entire bills.

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