Last-minute strikes try to thwart French pension reform
PARIS — France faces another day of strikes on Wednesday over controversial pension reforms that President Emmanuel Macron appears close to enacting despite months of protests.
As legislation moves into its final stages in Parliament, unions will make another attempt to pressure the government and lawmakers to reject the proposed increase in the retirement age to 64.
Turnout for the final day of protests on Saturday was far lower than in previous rounds, while strikes by rail, refinery and public sector workers last week did not shut down the country as unions had hoped.
The most visible effect of the standoff so far has been the accumulation of rubbish on the streets of Paris, where refuse collectors and street cleaners have stopped working.
“We will not have the same level of disruption to public transport as we did on previous days of protests,” said Transport Minister Clement Beaune on Tuesday.
What is particularly interesting is whether Macron’s minority government can muster the required number of votes in the sub-parliament, where it needs the support of the opposition Republican Party (LR) to pass the law.
A joint vote by the lower National Assembly and the Senate could take place as early as Thursday.
– minority government –
Macron’s flagship proposal would raise the minimum retirement age to 64 from the current 62, bringing France more in line with its EU neighbors, most of which have lowered the retirement age to 65 or higher.
The law also increases the requirements for a full pension and would abolish the retirement privileges enjoyed by some public sector employees, such as those on the Paris Metro.
After initially claiming that it wanted to make the system fairer, the government is now emphasizing that it is about savings and avoiding deficits in the coming decades.
In a speech to MPs on Tuesday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne insisted there was a majority in Parliament for the changes and appealed to LR MPs, who have long been behind pension reforms.
A yes vote is “not support for the government,” she said.
“There is a majority that is not afraid of reforms, even unpopular ones when they are necessary,” said Borne.
Opinion polls show that around two-thirds of French people oppose the law.
If Borne does not find a viable majority in the House of Commons, she could use a constitutional power contained in Article 49.3 of the Constitution to pass the law without a vote.
Analysts say it would strip her and Macron of democratic legitimacy in the face of hostile public opinion, and also expose the government to a vote of confidence it could lose.
Political scientist Gilles Finchelstein, who heads the Jean Jaures Foundation, a Paris-based think tank, said using Article 49.3 would be a “defeat for Borne, the government and the president.”
“But in the short term it is a wrong assumption. Everyone increases the tension. But it is very unlikely that the government will have to use 49.3 because it will have a majority,” he told reporters.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch