Railway workers take part in a demonstration against government pension reform at Lyon train station in Paris, France, 28 March 2023. EFE/EPA/YOAN VALAT

France braces for fresh round of unrelenting protests over pension reform

Paris, Mar 28 (EFE).- France was braced for a fresh round of mass protests and strikes with hundreds of thousands of people expected to take to the streets to oppose president Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension reform.

France’s main trade unions — General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) — both called for a 10th day of strikes after Macron pushed through his government’s reform to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote on March 16.

The unpopular changes to France’s retirement system prompted the government to sidestep parliament by using special constitutional powers to pass the reform.

A protester holding a placard says ’60 Years, it’s good enough’ participates in a protest against government pension reform in Montpellier, France, 28 March 2023. EFE/EPA/Guillaume Horcajuelo

Macron’s office on Tuesday turned down a request by unions to appoint a mediator for discussions to wind down the social unrest that erupted in response to the reforms, which include raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Government spokesman Olivier Véran said Macron would be willing to speak with union representatives after the Constitutional Court had ruled on the pension bill.

Protestors came out in force on Tuesday with teachers, students, national railway workers and refineries all joining the calls for a strike.

Protesters throw up an effigy depicting French President Emmanuel Macron during a protest against government’s pension reform at Nice, France, 28 March 2023. EFE/EPA/SEBASTIEN NOGIER

Transport services in the capital were also disrupted and the iconic Eiffel Tower announced it was closed due to the strike action.

Garbage collectors in Paris have been on strike for two weeks now with large piles of trash piling up on the streets of the capital.

Around 20% of flights were canceled at Orly airport in Paris and in Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

People and students participate in a protest against government pension reform in Montpellier, France, 28 March 2023. EFE/EPA/Guillaume Horcajuelo

Authorities were braced for clashes with demonstrators after protests turned violent last week with controversy mounting over policing tactics.

France’s Human Rights League last week launched a campaign urging authorities to stop the “large-scale, violent and totally disproportionate law enforcement operations.”

Interior minister Gérald Darmanin on Monday announced the deployment of 13,000 officers, with nearly half of them operating in the French capital.

Darmanin said radical protestors were joining demonstrations “to destroy, to injure and to kill police officers and gendarmes.”

“Their goals have nothing to do with the pension reform. Their goals are to destabilize our republican institutions and bring blood and fire down on France,” the minister added.

The protest movement against pension reforms is Macron’s biggest challenge since he began his second term in office last year.EFE