Conflicts & War

French protest pensions overhaul ahead of court ruling

By Antonio Torres del Cerro

Paris, Apr 13 (EFE).- France’s cities saw a 12th round of protests Thursday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 ahead of a ruling on the legislation by the Constitutional Council.

The nine-member council can accept the legislation in whole or in part, or reject it entirely when it decides on challenges brought by the leftist NUPES alliance and the far-right National Rally after the government rammed the bill through parliament without allowing debate on proposed amendments.

France’s two main labor federations, the CFDT and the CGT, said that 400,000 people marched in Paris on Thursday and roughly a million nationwide, down from 2 million a week ago.

Authorities put turnout across the country at 380,000.

Here in the capital, police arrested at least 36 protesters and 10 cops were hurt, according to officials.

Demonstrators in Paris gathered in front of Palais Garnier, the home of the National Opera, and set out in the direction of the Place de la Bastille.

Along with the usual slogans denouncing Macron as authoritarian, the crowd chanted about Friday’s ruling by the Constitutional Council.

Thierry, a 60-year-old IT specialist who works for Thales, an aerospace and defense conglomerate, said that the council “cannot close their eyes in the face of this mobilization.”

Wearing the orange vest of the CFDT, he told EFE that if the council does not revoke the pension bill, opponents of the higher retirement age will pursue the option of a Citizens’ Initiative Referendum (RIP).

If the council, which is chaired by former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, finds that a RIP can take place, the promoters will have nine months to collect a minimum of 4.87 million signatures – 10 percent of voters – in support of convening a referendum.

“It is up to the French population to decide whether or not we want this reform and I’m sure that the population opposes it, it’s more that 70 percent of the population and 90 percent of the (economically) active population,” Thierry said.

Last week’s protest saw a group of militants set fire to La Rotonde, the restaurant where Macron celebrated reaching the second round of the presidential election in 2017, and vandalism at the Paris office of investment firm BlackRock.

On Thursday, several union members briefly occupied an LVMH boutique on the Champs Elysees without doing any damage.

The heads of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, and the CGT, Sophie Binet, have said that the mobilization will continue even if the Constitutional Council upholds the legislation.

Macron, a former investment banker, has been out of the country on official visits to China and the Netherlands, said that he is prepared to meet with labor leaders after the council hands down its decision, an offer the unions rejected.

Less than a year after winning re-election, polls show that if the vote were held today, Macron would lose by a wide margin to the National Rally’s Marine Le Pen.

A survey published last Thursday by Les Echos newspaper indicated that only 25 percent of the France have confidence in their president.

EFE atc/dr

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