On Saturday evening, March 11, 2023, the Senate, the upper chamber of the French Parliament, adopted the reform of the pension system. Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne made no secret of her satisfaction after this first legislative success. The government hopes to finally approve the reform in parliament.
“An important step has been passed,” Bourne said, expressing her confidence that “there is a majority” in Parliament to adopt the reform.
And the French opposing the reform of the unpopular retirement system demonstrated on Saturday, March 12, 2023, in fewer numbers than those recorded during previous demonstrations, while the unions called on President Emmanuel Macron to “consult the people.”
The majority of the French, according to opinion polls, oppose the project, which proposes to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years, considering it “unfair”, especially for women and people with hard professions. However, the number of demonstrators on Saturday was much less than the previous mobilization days, according to figures provided by the authorities and trade unions.
According to the French Ministry of the Interior, 368,000 people demonstrated on Saturday throughout the country, including 48,000 in Paris.
Before the demonstration began in Paris, union leaders challenged President Emmanuel Macron to hold a referendum on his controversial project.
“Since he is confident in himself, let him consult the people. We will see the response of the people,” said Philippe Martinet, the general secretary of the Confederation General of Labor (CDFT), Laurent Berget, “certainly one should go towards consulting the citizens.”
The French government chose to raise the legal retirement age to address the financial deterioration witnessed by pension funds, especially in light of the aging population.
France is one of the European countries that adopts the lowest retirement age, although the retirement systems are not similar and cannot be completely compared.
The French president is betting a large part of his political assets by proposing this project, which he aspires to be the most prominent measure in his second term and symbolizes his determination to reform, but it encounters great rejection by the French.
Macron said on Friday afternoon that the pension reform must proceed “until its conclusions” in Parliament, hinting that he does not rule out anything, including passing the law without putting it to a vote, according to an article in the constitution that allows the government to issue a legislative text without its approval in Parliament.
On Friday, Labor Minister Olivier Dusopt resorted to the constitutional weapon, calling for a single vote in the Senate on the entire bill at once, which keeps the about seventy amendments proposed or accepted by the government, without taking into account the other amendment proposals.
But even without a debate or a vote on the remaining 1,000 proposed amendments, its proponents can still present them. This mechanism allows to buy time and gives the left hope that the text “will not be put to a vote” before the due date at midnight on Sunday.