Labor & Workforce

French Senate votes to raise retirement age to 64 as strikes continue

Paris, Mar 9 (EFE).- The French senate has voted to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64, as workers continued to strike on Thursday against the government’s unpopular pension reforms.

Just after midnight on Thursday, 201 senators voted in favor of the controversial bill’s article 7 on raising the legal age of retirement, while 115 voted against and 29 abstained.

The vote in the upper house, which has a conservative majority, came after a 15-hour heated debate over the unpopular reforms that have led to multiple rounds of strikes, often bringing the country to a standstill.

An amendment is to be voted on later on Thursday and the Senate is expected to pass the remaining articles later this week.

Labor Minister, Olivier Dussopt, was satisfied with the passage of the bill in the Senate but the articles still have to be reviewed next week by a conciliation committee with lawmakers from the Senate and the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, before becoming law.

Dussopt welcomed the “vote of responsibility by the Senate, which had chosen to follow the government” in approving raising the age of retirement and said he hoped that all

remaining articles could be discussed and adopted by midnight on Sunday.

President Emmanuel Macron made pension reforms a key element of his electoral campaign although he did not succeed in making the changes during his first term.

If Macron succeeds in securing the necessary backing in the National Assembly for the pension reforms, the bill could be adopted by parliament by the end of the month.

The reforms have been met with mass protests, and the country saw one the largest strikes in decades on Tuesday, when over a million people went on strike, according to the interior ministry while France’s major confederation of unions (CGT) said the figure was closer to 3.5 million.

Protests and strikes have continued in some sectors like public transport and energy.

Around 100 people blocked the Le Perthus tollbooth in the southern Occitanie region on Thursday morning near the Spanish border.

An EPA photographer was able to verify that the blockade began at around 8:00 am local time and that huge queues formed on both sides of the toll booth.

The highway was cleared by members of France’s Gendarmerie at 10:30 am, a spokeswoman for the Pyrenees-Orientales department told Efe.

Disruptions in transport services were expected on both Thursday and Friday, with around 20% of flights canceled at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and 30% at Orly, also in the capital.

Airports in Beauvais, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice and Toulouse were also reporting a reduction in flights.

Two-thirds of high-speed trains have been canceled as well as 60% of regional train routes and up to 80% of trains in the Paris region.

No train runs were running on the Paris-Barcelona corridor on Thursday.

Strikers have also blocked fuel deliveries, although union leaders have downplayed the disruption saying no supply issues had been reported. EFE


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