| 3 December 2023, Sunday |

French unions rally supporters to the streets ahead of pension ruling

France faced a new day of street protests on Thursday over President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to make people work longer for their pension, as striking workers disrupted garbage collection in Paris and blocked river traffic on part of the Rhine river.

Trade unions urged a show of force on the streets a day before the Constitutional Council’s ruling on the legality of the bill that would raise the retirement age by two years to 64.

If the Council gives its approval, possibly with some caveats, the government will be entitled to promulgate the law, and will hope this will eventually put an end to protests, which have at times turned violent, and coalesced widespread anger against Macron.

In a 12th day of nationwide protests since strikes began in mid-January, demonstrators briefly blocked an access road to the Council with rubbish bins, hanging a banner across the street reading “Constitutional Censorship”.

The industrial action has lost some steam and the protests have rallied thinner crowds in past weeks compared with the more-than 1 million-strong numbers seen earlier in the movement.

But unions remained defiant.

“This is certainly not the last day of the strike,” Sophie Binet, the new leader of the hard-left CGT union, said at blockade of an incinerator outside Paris.

Macron must withdraw this law, “or he won’t be able to govern the country,” she said.

“Incinerator workers, garbage collectors, are on strike until further notice, until the withdrawal of the pension reform,” said CGT unionist Loic Gefrotin, on the picket lines of another trash treatment plant in the Paris region, in Issy-les-Moulineaux.

Macron said he would organise a meeting with unions after the Council’s decision to start working on other proposals — an initiative the CGT said would be short-lived if he was not ready to discuss withdrawing the pension reform.

“The country must continue to move forward, work, and face the challenges that await us,” Macron told a news conference late on Wednesday.

  • Reuters