Pension reform in France: harsh rebuff to unions

Pension reform in France: harsh rebuff to unions

French Senate approves slightly modified version of pension reform. But the protests continue. Garbage collection in Paris is also on strike.

Protests in Paris with placards and union flags

Protests in Paris on Saturday: Unions have again called for strikes against Macron’s pension reform plans Photo: Lewis Joly/AP/dpa

PARIS taz | In the parliamentary Controversy over pension reform The French government has achieved a first stage victory: With 195 votes to 112, the Senate approved the controversial reform in the debate, which was shortened by an urgent procedure. In the National Assembly, the debate ended without a vote after heated discussions and thousands of opposition amendments that were left unaddressed.

The joint joint commission of the two chambers of parliament, which is made up of 7 deputies and senators each, is to agree on a text on Wednesday as to how this is intended for such cases. This compromise would then go to both chambers again. While the government can count on the votes of a conservative and center-bourgeois majority in the Senate, the balance of power in the National Assembly is very uncertain.

Due to the urgent procedure, with which the government is putting parliamentarians under time pressure based on Article 47.1 of the Constitution, the deputies and senators only have until March 26 for their debates and a possible final vote. If Parliament does not approve the bill after a maximum of 50 days, thanks to this procedure, the government can implement its reform by way of decrees. That doesn’t sound very democratic, but the Constitution of the Fifth Republic gives the executive branch several legal tools to govern and dictate its laws unhindered by objections from Parliament.

Unions continue to call for resistance

The prospect of the state leadership ultimately overriding parliament as the legislator and representative of the people is just an additional provocation for the trade unions, who continue to fight this reform with determination. After several days of action, general strikes and demonstrations across the country, in At the peak, according to organizers, more than 3 million people took to the streets, the united umbrella organizations wrote a letter to President Emmanuel Macron in which they urgently asked for an audience and called on him to withdraw the unpopular and anti-social reform, so that the country find social peace.

The President also issued a rather harsh rebuff in writing. He apparently wants to see the showdown through to the end, although he also knows that a large majority of citizens (around 7 out of 10) reject the pension reform and, on the contrary, support the protests. According to a recent survey by the Odoxa Institute, a majority believes that resistance to raising the retirement age to 64 must continue even if the reform is passed or put into effect as an ordinance. Macron apparently expects that after weeks of protests resignation and that those willing to strike are simply running out of money. But it could also provoke a further escalation in this conflict.

The trade unions and the political left are far from giving up. In the last week they have increased the pressure on the government with tougher actions and impressive mobilizations. Several strike actions have been going on for days now. This applies in particular for the blocked oil refineries run by energy sector strikers deliberately organized power cuts, the ongoing disruptions to rail and air traffic, and waste disposal in several cities. In the capital, too, mountains of rubbish are already piling up next to overflowing containers in the majority of quarters, which meanwhile stink to high heaven and attract rats.

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