French unions block roads as nation reacts to pension reform

Paris, Mar 17 (EFE).- French unions organized roadblocks in Paris early Friday after a night of tense protests across the country following the decision by president Emmanuel Macron’s government to adopt controversial pension reforms by decree, a move that bypassed a parliamentary vote.

Dozens of demonstrators with CGT union banners blocked traffic on the ring road around the capital, causing tailbacks in the early morning.

“This should not happen. There are democratic ways to show opposition,” France’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin told RTL radio on Friday.

Paris and other cities such as Marseilles, Nantes, Rennes and Lyon witnessed disturbances on Thursday night after the French government turned to the constitutional article 49.3 to approve its pension reform without a vote in parliament, where the bill looked destined for a possible defeat.

Darmanin said there were no “serious incidents” reported but that law enforcement agents carried out 310 arrests in the protests, the vast majority in Paris.

On Thursday night, protesters in Paris erected barricades and set fire to piles of trash that have accumulated in the streets as a result of a strike by garbage collectors.

The government has activated a measure to oblige some garbage collectors to break the strike on health grounds following a spat with Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, who refused to carry out the order.

The government’s decision to adopt the pension bill by decree rather than with the support of parliament opens up a window for opposition parties to lodge no-confidence motions in parliament.

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne’s executive is braced for at least two such motions, although neither are likely to succeed.

French unions, which have been leading protests and several rounds of strikes against the pension reform, which would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, have pledged to keep mobilizing against the bill. EFE


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