France unions stage potentially last nation-wide protests against pension reforms News
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France unions stage potentially last nation-wide protests against pension reforms

French union activists and protesters once again took to the streets Tuesday to protest the controversial pension reform bill, which first sparked mass protests back in January. While tens of thousands of people still turned out to protest, the turnout—as of the time of this report—is lower than previous protests. Since the last protests, France enacted the pension reform, leading to cooling tensions.

The Tuesday protests seek to reignite public opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s push to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The protests also seek to garner support for a proposed bill drafted by centrist opposition group LIOT that would return the retirement age to 62.

National Secretary of the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) union Yvan Ricordeau emphasized Tuesday that two-thirds of France’s population oppose the pension reform. General Secretary of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) Sophia Binet called for a parliamentary vote on the reforms, in hopes of repealing them. The reforms initially passed in March when Macron invoked a constitutional provision that allowed him to circumvent a parliamentary vote. According to Ricordeau, an upcoming June 8 vote would be the first time members of France’s National Assembly will vote on the reform.

The LIOT legislation faces significant headwinds. The bill may not even make it to a vote, with Macron attempting to block the measure through Article 40 of the French Constitution, which prohibits parliamentary initiatives which “would result in either a diminution of public revenue or the creation or increase of any public expenditure.”

Union leaders stressed the victories which have already been won through the intense protests of the past half year—including some significantly damaging to Macron’s political position. In an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche, Binet claimed that the protesters had scored crucial points. She said that the protests put unionism back in the nation’s focus and sank Macron’s political majority. Binet also called upon Macron to renounce the reform.

While union leaders signaled that further protests may occur, they likewise added that the time has come to focus on other issues, such as working conditions and corporate tax fraud.