France faces 8th day of strikes ahead of key vote on pension reforms

2023-03-15 18:12:34
France faces 8th day of strikes ahead of key vote on pension reforms

French unions have called for a show of force with a final day of strikes and protests in the run-up to a crucial vote on Emmanuel Macron’s fiercely contested pensions overhaul in parliament.

The call for an eighth day of national mobilisation on Wednesday comes as rubbish piles up in Paris and a number of other French cities after continuing strikes by refuse collectors who oppose the bill that will increase the official retirement age from 62 to 64.

Record numbers of demonstrators have taken to the streets of France over the past weeks to oppose proposed changes to the pension system, which Macron promised to carry out in his re-election campaign last year.

The legislation would not only raise the retirement age but also increase the number of years of contributions needed to claim a full pension.

Opinion polls suggest up to 70% of French people oppose the changes, but a poll by Ifop found 71% are resigned to the bill being passed. The same poll found 56% of those asked considered protesters and strikers were justified in bringing France to a standstill in the run-up to Thursday’s vote.

The transport minister, Clément Beaune, said there would be disruption to public transport and flights, but it was unlikely to be a “Black Wednesday”.

“There should not be the same level of disruptions as with previous mobilisations,” Beaune said.

The upper house, the Sénat, approved the bill on Saturday sending it back to the National Assembly. Union leaders and opposition MPs are furious that a 28-member cross-party parliamentary commission that will thrash out a final compromise on the bill will meet behind closed doors on Wednesday.

Mathilde Panot of the radical left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), which tabled 13,000 amendments to the bill in an attempt to halt it, told the Parliamentary Channel: “It’s interesting that at a time when many aspects of the bill haven’t been discussed that citizens can know what is going on.”

About 6,600 tonnes of rubbish was estimated to have built up in Paris on Tuesday as the city’s refuse collectors voted to continue their strike until Monday. The powerful CGT union said in a statement that workers in refuse, water, sewage and sanitation sectors of the City of Paris would be stepping up their action.

If the commission agrees on a final text, the bill will return to the Sénat for approval on Thursday morning before being sent back to the Assemblée nationale for a final vote that afternoon.


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