Trade unions, workers in France ready for 9th round of demos against pension reform

Trade unions, workers in France ready for 9th round of demos against pension reform

Rally in Paris will start in afternoon, protests planned in other cities as well

By Nur Asena Erturk

ANKARA (AA) – Trade unions in France are preparing on Thursday for renewed protests against the pension reform.

This will be the ninth day of planned mobilization since January, with thousands of workers walking out in various sectors, including transportation, energy, and education.

The rally in Paris will start in the afternoon and protests will be held in other cities as well.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Tuesday evening said that 12,000 police officers, including 5,000 in Paris, will be deployed during those demonstrations, according to broadcaster BFMTV.

National railway company SNCF and Parisian regional transportation company RATP announced that their services will be largely disrupted, the daily Le Figaro reported.

The French Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) urged airline companies to cancel 30% of their flights at Paris-Orly airport, and 20% of the flights at Marseille-Provence, Toulouse, and Lyon airports, due to the workers' strikes.

- Non-stop demonstrations

The country has been facing non-stop demonstrations since March 16, when President Emmanuel Macron and Prime minister Elisabeth Borne decided to use constitutional powers to adopt the bill without parliamentary consent.

Acts of violence marred most of those impromptu protests, with hundreds arrested during the weekend.

- Macron's speech

President Macron on Wednesday, during an interview with broadcasters France 2 and TF1, did not budge from his decision on the reform, saying that it is a must.

He explained that this bill will pursue its democratic path, and "must enter into force this year."

Those remarks triggered outrage among the opposition parties and trade unions, who criticized the president for arrogance and contempt.

- Pension reform plan, source of popular furor

The French government used special constitutional powers last week to force the plan through, prompting opposing parties to submit no-confidence motions that were later rejected.

Macron and Borne decided to invoke Article 49.3 of the constitution, a mechanism that lets the government adopt a draft bill without parliamentary approval.

The decision was driven by fear that lawmakers would be able to block the reforms as the government does not hold an absolute majority in the legislature.

The government revealed the reform project in January and parliament started examining and debating the draft bill the following month.

Workers and trade unions have since expressed growing outrage by holding demonstrations and walkouts.

The reform project includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.

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