The French parliament was set to vote on president Emmanuel Macron’s controversial proposed reform of the pension system today. This is in spite of massive protests and strikes across France, which have been ongoing since the start of the year.
1.7 million people protested against the reforms on Wednesday 17 March, according to the (CGT) union.
Amidst all this, Macron decided he didn’t want to risk a vote in the assembly, and instead opted to use the controversial Article 49:3 of the French constitution to push the reform through.
The reform would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Trade unions and other critics say that this will penalise low-income people in manual jobs who tend to start their careers early, forcing them to work longer than graduates, who are less affected by the changes.
Police chief threatens striking refuse workers
Paris’ rubbish collectors have been striking, in a last-ditch attempt to force the government to scrap the reforms. 7,600 tonnes of garbage have not been collected as a result of the rolling strike
Private waste collection company Derichebourg said on Wednesday 15 March that it will stop providing strike breakers to counter the strikers’ action. Their announcement came after workers threatened to picket their depots.
The refuse collectors’ actions show once again that the workers’ movement is a force to be reckoned with. But rather than listening to the strikers, the state is preparing to use repressive measures instead. Police chief Laurent Nunez said late on Wednesday that the government would use its power to “requisition” striking trash collectors. This means that they could face prosecution if they don’t return to work.
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Back in parliament, the senate already accepted the pension legislation on the morning of Thursday 16 March. But a ballot in the lower house was scheduled for Thursday afternoon. It was predicted to be extremely tight.
A loss for the government would have been a humiliation for Macron, less than a year after he was voted in for a second term. Macron’s manifesto is decidedly anti-worker, and he has proclaimed that he will make the French people “work more”.
Macron was afraid of losing the vote, so he ordered prime minister Elisabeth Borne to ram the legislation through the assembly, using a controversial power contained in article 49:3 of the constitution.
Forcing through the legislation in this way is sure to spark stronger resistance on the streets. It is a dangerous move for Macron.
The message from the streets is clear
Opposition MPs have announced they will table a no-confidence motion against Macron’s minority government. It’s this that could still stop the legislation from being passed.
But whatever happens in parliament, French workers are unlikely to give up the struggle against Macron’s anti-working-class policies. If Macron succeeds in pushing these unpopular reforms through, there’s every likelihood that resistance will grow even stronger.
Additional reporting by Agence France Presse
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