Conflicts & War

Hundreds of thousands protest pension overhaul in France

Paris, Apr 6 (EFE).- Hundreds of thousands of people returned to to the streets of France’s major cities Thursday for an 11th round of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age.

The mobilization comes eight days before the Constitutional Council is due to rule on a challenge to the constitutionality of the pension overhaul the government rammed through parliament without allowing debate on proposed amendments.

The marches in Paris and other cities also followed by hours a meeting between executives of the two main labor federations – the CFDT and the UGT – and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne that broke up when the premier refused to consider undoing the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64.

As usual, authorities and protest organizers offered widely differing estimates of the level of participation.

The Interior Ministry said that around 570,000 people took part nationwide, including 57,000 in Paris, while the unions put the numbers at 400,000 in the capital and more than 2 million across the country.

“Whatever happens, the motivation will continue until the reform is withdrawn,” Sophie Binet, the newly elected head of the CGT, said at the start of the march in Paris.

The secretary-general of the larger CFDT, Laurent Berger, said that the movement against the pension overhaul retains the support of the French population.

“There is no alternative, they (the government) must retreat. We are right, they are mistaken. We are the majority,” CGT member Thomas Vaucouleur told EFE at the protest in Paris.

He said that the “strong resentment” against the government is being intensified by the violent police response to the protests even as Macron – a former investment banker – “lives in the parallel reality of capitalism and big business.”

“I think I’m going to die before my retirement,” 25-year-old Violette said.

The marches in Paris ended with confrontations between police and protesters and one group of militants set fire to La Rotonde, the restaurant where Macron celebrated reaching the second round of the presidential election in 2017.

Thursday’s demonstrations were accompanied by strikes in sectors including education and public transportation.

Fuel shortages also persist despite the government’s resort to ordering some strikers back to work, though that approach suffered a setback Thursday with a court ruling in favor of employees who refused to return to their jobs at a refinery in Rouen.

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 Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally.

A survey published Thursday by Les Echos newspaper indicates that only 25 percent of the France have confidence in the president. EFE ngp/dr

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