French President Pushes Pension Reform Forward Amid Massive Protest

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said that he hoped to renew dialogues with trade unions in order to ease tensions which increased after his statement that his government’s controversial pension reform plan should become law “before the end of this year.”

Macron in an interview said that the text for the pension reform, which is now due to be examined by the Constitutional Council, “will continue its democratic process”. “This reform is not a luxury, it is not a pleasure, it is a necessity,” news agency IANS quoted him as saying.

He said that his only regret was that he failed to convince the citizens of France of the need for this reform. He said that this reform would ‘balance’ the pension system in the future.

A wide majority of French are opposed to the pension legislation, which will raise the age at which one can draw a pension by two years to 64.

Protests against the bill have drawn huge crowds in rallies organised by unions since January.

To ease the tensions, Macron in an interview on Wednesday said, “We have to move on. We must appease, and we must rebuild a parliamentary agenda and reforms by re-engaging in a dialogue with the unions and all the political forces that are ready to do so.”

Last Thursday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked an article of the Constitution that allows the government to force passage of the pension reform bill without having to pass through a vote in the National Assembly. This move led to outrage among deputies as well as the people living and working force there.

French Prime Minister in January detailed the proposal according to which the legal retirement age would be gradually raised from 62 to 64 by three months each year by 2030, and a guaranteed minimum pension would be introduced. The proposal also stipulates that in order to be qualified for a full pension as of 2027, one must have worked for at least 43 years.

At present there are 17 million retirees in France that are going to be affected by this reform and by 2030, this number is expected to reach 30 million, reported IANS.

Two motions of no confidence in the government were then put up. Even though they sparked heated discussions in the National Assembly, these did not result in a majority, and France’s political parties are now more divided than ever.

Since last Thursday, impromptu protests have erupted all around the nation. To disperse the masses, police have used water cannons and tear gas. Several protesters and NGOs have criticised French police for their alleged “excessive” use of force and “abusive” arrest practices.

Eric Dupond-Moretti, the Justice Minister for France, requested on Wednesday that prosecutors adopt “a systematic and rapid criminal response” against protesters who had been detained for “serious disturbances to public order” during the protests.

Meanwhile. the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the largest union in France, has already called for widespread strikes and protests to take place on March 23.