French Senate approves controversial pension plan amid protests

Paris, Mar 12 (EFE).- The French Senate approved President Emmanuel Macron’s contentious pension reform on Saturday, as protests over the unpopular plan to raise the retirement age by two years to 64 continued for the seventh day.

The Senate, or the upper house of the French Parliament, voted on the bill late on Saturday as demonstrators across the country took to the streets to protest against the government move.

French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said it was a “decisive step to bring about a reform that will ensure the future of our pensions.”

She said the government was “totally committed to allow a final adoption in the next few days.”

Upper house lawmakers passed the reform by 195 votes to 112.

Though the government secured the Senate approval, the proposal must clear other hurdles before becoming law.

A joint parliamentary panel of lawmakers from the two houses will review the bill before it goes to the upper houses again.

The government will then table it in the National Assembly of the lower house for final approval.

The joint panel is likely to debate the bill text on Wednesday.

However, the National Assembly vote is expected to be close as the house, where the ruling party needs the votes of its allies for a majority, did not approve the plan previously.

The Macron government has defended the reform as the only feasible way to guarantee the financial balance by 2030.

“The status quo in the next 10 years means 150 billion euros ($162 billion) of accumulated deficits and a fall in the quality of life of pensioners,” Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt said.

The idea of hiking the retirement age from 62 to 64 and increasing to 43 the number of years someone must work to receive a full pension is also unpopular with the far-right.

“Governing with brutality to impose a reform the French do not want: behold their only objective,” the National Rally’s Marine Le Pen said Friday on Twitter after the ruling party moved to ram the bill through the Senate.

On Saturday, as the Senate debated and voted on the bill, thousands of French took to the streets in protest against the reform.

It was the seventh day of protests.

But the demonstrations appeared to have lost steam.

Despite that, union leaders said the French rejection of the reform was “more than absolute.”

Polls show that the vast majority of citizens are against it.

The unions have again called for protests on Wednesday when the joint parliamentary committee reviews the text of the reform bill. EFE

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