Saturday, November 4, 2023

French Senate Passes Macron’s Pension Plan Amid Ongoing Protests


France’s Senate has approved President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform plan, which includes raising the retirement age by two years to 64. The vote was passed by 195 to 112, bringing the package closer to becoming law. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted that the adoption of the pension reform plan was a key step in guaranteeing the future of France’s pension system. The bill will now be reviewed by a joint committee of lower and upper house legislators, with a final vote in both chambers likely to take place on Thursday. However, the outcome of the vote in the lower chamber, the National Assembly, remains uncertain, as Macron’s party needs allies’ votes for a majority.

The pension reform has been fiercely opposed by unions, who called for a “citizens’ consultation” as soon as possible. On Saturday, 368,000 demonstrators marched through various cities in France, with tensions flaring in Paris as some protesters threw objects at security forces and rubbish bins were burned. Unions have planned an additional day of nationwide strikes and protests for Wednesday.

Opinion polls show that a majority of voters oppose Macron’s plan, while a slim majority supports the strike actions. The reforms would also increase the number of years people have to make contributions to receive a full pension, with protesters arguing that women, especially mothers, are at a disadvantage under the new reforms. Rolling strikes have affected several sectors of the French economy, including rail and air transport, power stations, natural gas terminals and rubbish collection.

Despite the protests and strikes, Macron has twice turned down urgent calls by unions to meet with him in a last-ditch attempt to get him to change his mind. Philippe Martinez, boss of the left-wing CGT union, called for a referendum on the pensions reform.

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