French Court approves Macron’s pension reform « Khabarhub
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French Court approves Macron’s pension reform


15 April 2023  

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PARIS: France’s constitutional court on Friday approved the key elements of President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform, paving the way for him to implement the unpopular changes that have sparked months of protests and strikes.

The nine-member Constitutional Council ruled in favor of key provisions, including raising the retirement age to 64 from 62, judging the legislation to be in accordance with the law.

Six minor proposals were rejected, including efforts to force large companies to publish data on how many people over 55 they employ, and a separate idea to create a special contract for older workers.

The decision represents a victory for Macron, but analysts say it has come at a major personal cost for the 45-year-old leader while causing months of disruption for the country with sometimes violent protests that have left hundreds injured.

The president’s personal ratings are close to their lowest-ever level, and many voters have been left outraged by his decision to ram the pensions law through the lower house of parliament without a vote.

“Stay the course, that’s my motto,” Macron said on Friday as he inspected restoration efforts at the Notre Dame Cathedral, four years after a devastating fire there.

Police expected up to 10,000 people to gather again in Paris on Friday night, with the presence of several hundred left-wing radicals raising fears of more vandalism and clashes that have marred recent rallies.

Thousands of protesters gathered in front of Paris city hall and booed the court decision when it was announced on Friday evening.

The offices of the Constitutional Council, a short walk from the Louvre Museum, have been protected with barriers and dozens of riot police were on guard nearby.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the court had “judged the reform, on the substance as well as procedure, to conform with the constitution.”

“This evening, there are no winners or losers,” she wrote on Twitter.

Reform opponents

It remains to be seen if the months-long effort to block the changes by trade unions will continue, with support for strikes and protests waning.

“The fight continues and must gather force,” wrote the leader of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) party, Jean-Luc Melenchon, on Twitter.

Unions called on Macron not to sign the legislation into law, which the former investment banker is expected to do in the next 48 hours.

Communist Party leader Fabien Roussel said signing the law “would not be pouring oil on the fire, but a jerrycan full of petrol.”

“I fear an outpouring of anger,” he told the BFM channel.

Last month, a strike by Paris garbage workers left the capital strewn with 10,000 tons of uncollected rubbish, while train services, oil refineries and schools have been affected by regular stoppages since January.

Some 380,000 people protested in the streets nationwide on Thursday in the latest day of union-led action, according to the interior ministry.

But that was a fraction of the nearly 1.3 million who demonstrated at the height of the protests in March.

In a second decision on Friday, the court rejected a bid from opposition lawmakers to force a referendum on an alternative pension law that would have kept the retirement age at 62.

France currently lags behind most of its European neighbors, many of which have hiked the retirement age to 65 or above.

Opponents of the reform say it penalizes unskilled workers who started their careers early, while critics also say it undercuts the right of French people to a long retirement.

Average life expectancy in France is 82.

‘Necessary’ change?

Senior ruling party MP Eric Woerth spoke for many government supporters on Friday when he said he hoped the country would end up acknowledging the need for the change, but he admitted that “we have not convinced people.”

Polls have consistently shown that two out of three French people are against working another two years before they can retire.

“Once the volcano has cooled down and people look at things with a bit more distance, maybe in the back of their minds they’ll say, ‘maybe they were right’ … the French pension system needed unpopular decisions to conserve it,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Macron has repeatedly called the change “necessary” to avoid annual pension deficits that are forecast to hit 13.5 billion euros by 2030, according to government figures.

“I’m proud of the French social model, and I defend it, but if we want to make it sustainable, we have to produce more,” he said Wednesday during a trip to the Netherlands.

VOA

Publish Date : 15 April 2023 14:39 PM

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