Nobody gives in. The unions and the opposition – except for the moderate right – demand the withdrawal of the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 years from now to 2030, the central point of the pension reform promoted by the president, Emmanuel Macron. A large majority of French people support the opposition and the unions, which on Tuesday have called the third day of strike and demonstrations since the Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, presented the project a month ago. Macron and his government maintain their plans.
While the protests will allow the social temperature to be taken again, in the National Assembly the legislative process has been launched. On Monday, the project began to be discussed in plenary in a hectic atmosphere. Over 20,000 amendments, most from the left. A referendum proposal raised by the extreme right that was rejected. Complaints, by several deputies, of anonymous threats. A government that lacks sufficient votes to adopt the measure and is forced to make concessions to obtain them.
The unknown is whether the protests this Tuesday will bring as many protesters to the streets of the cities and towns of France as those of January 19 and 31. On each of these occasions there were more than a million. It was a show of force that, added to the polls that show that close to 70% of French people are against the reform, certifies a divorce between the president and public opinion on this issue.
The strike this Tuesday will affect urban and rail transport. One in three trains going abroad will be affected, reports le figaro. Also one in five flights from the Parisian airport of Orly. Strikes have also been called in education, energy and public service, in addition to ski resorts. A part of the country has started the winter school holidays. On Saturday a fourth day of demonstrations has been called. Being a holiday, the conveners expect an even greater influx.
Macron and the Government maintain that the reform is necessary to balance the accounts in 2030 and guarantee the financial viability of the pension system. The argument is economic and also demographic: the aging of the population and the increase in life expectancy make it necessary to work more. “The future of our system is threatened,” Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said in an interview published Sunday in The Daily Journal. “Taking into account that, in the seventies, there were three people who contributed for each retiree, from the year 2000 there were two and now there are 1.7, it is already seen that the balance is not guaranteed.”
The opposition and the unions reply that the increase in the retirement age is socially unfair. “The basic problem of this reform is the postponement of the legal age [de jubilación] at 64, which accentuates the inequalities inherent in the world of work,” Laurent Berger, general secretary of France’s first union, the moderate CFDT, told France Inter radio. “These inequalities are those that affect women, people who started working early, those who have jobs that are physically exhausting, those who have interrupted careers and those who have been laid off before retirement age.”
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The macronistas offer some concessions to achieve a sufficient majority in the Assembly. The law already contemplated that those who had started working before the age of 20 could retire earlier. Now it will be extended to 21. It is about softening one of the dangers of the law: that it ends up penalizing, as Berger says, those who have had long and exhausting careers.
The National Assembly has two weeks to debate and vote on the text. If he does not succeed, he will go directly to the Senate, controlled by the moderate right of Los Republicanos (LR). In the National Assembly, the macronistas (Renacimiento, Horizontes and MoDem) form the first bloc in number of deputies, with 250. The law must be definitively voted on before the end of March for it to enter into force in September.
Everything is in the hands of LR, fourth force with 62 deputies. It is the party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is having lunch with Macron this Tuesday at the Elysée Palace. The government’s efforts are focused on convincing LR to adhere to a measure that it has historically defended. If he votes en bloc in favor and joins the macronistas, they will reach a majority of 289 seats. If not, the prime minister can activate article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows to settle the debates and adopt a law by express means. Then the opposition can only stop it with a vote of no confidence.
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