Macron told to ‘prepare for conflict’ over pension reform plans

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Emmanuel Macron’s government has presented a bill that calls for the increase of the retirement age in France to 64 and 65 years of age for women and men respectively. But the French President is facing the prospect of mass protests as trade unions oppose the bill, denouncing that the pension reform is unjust and will give rise to social conflict.

The real risk is therefore of a general mobilisation of workers as it happened already in 2019.

The bill is being debated in Matignon, the seat of the government in Paris, for a new consultation before the expected presentation of the reform expected in a week.

Moreover, the majority of French people are against raising the retirement age or extending contributions.

Buried at the end of 2019 after indefinite strikes that paralysed the nation, the French pension reform was among the major projects not implemented by President Macron in the previous presidential term (2017-2022).

During the electoral campaign that reconfirmed him as president last April, Mr Macron had nevertheless pledged to have it launched as soon as possible in case of re-election.

Reacting to the plans, CFTC trade union President Cyril Chabanier told EURACTIV: “The government is obsessed with raising the retirement age.”

Mr Chabanier claimed that a €4-to-€5 increase could end the pension deficit faced by the government and for which the reform is allegedly been introduced.

But he added: “But the private sector claims this will increase unemployment rates, and so the government refuses to act.”

Another union official who wanted to remain unanimous, also told EURACTIV: “Macron wants a clash and hopes that unions will struggle to mobilise – pensions reform is no sexy topic.”

François Hommeril, president of the reformist CFE/CGC trade union, said there is no other option but to “prepare for conflict” at this point.

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The French President was already forced to resort to a law to effectively impose the application of his government’s budget in Parliament in late October.

By committing the “government’s responsibility” to the whole hemicycle, article 49.3 of the Constitution, adopted by the Government, allowed for the adoption of the budget law without a vote by the French Parliament.

The Government nonetheless faced more than 10 no-confidence motions in nine weeks during the process, as provided by the use of article 49.3.

The opposition lost all of them, guaranteeing Mr Macron’s equipe to stay put in power.

But as the French leader still does not have a majority in the Chambers, he is at risk of early parliamentary election when parliament is set to vote on his government’s pension reforms.

Without an absolute majority, and with an insufficient relative majority, Macron sees his room for manoeuvre as extremely limited.

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Under these conditions, Macron’s action in France could be paralysed.

On the domestic front, it would mean the halt of reforms and most of the government’s measures, including the pension reform.

Speaking to, Henry Jackson Society’s Associate Research Fellow Dr Helena Ivanov, however, believes Macron is not yet in a position to face early elections.

She said: “Whilst I do think that the new pension reform is likely to make Macron less popular among the voters, and we should certainly expect strikes, I don’t think we’re likely to see snap elections in France.

“His approval rates still didn’t plummet, Macron managed to keep inflation rate lower than most of the euro zone and the fact that France might just narrowly avoid recession all contribute to Macron’s cause, at least for now.”

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