Protests escalate in France over retirement age change

People walk and ride past uncollected garbages in Paris, Friday March 17, 2023, as sanitation workers are on strike. Protests against French President Emmanuel Macron's decision to force a bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 through parliament without a vote disrupted traffic, garbage collection and university campuses in Paris as opponents of the change maintained their resolve to get the government to back down. (AP Photo/Lewis Joly)

By Sylvie Corbet and Barbara Surk | Associated Press

PARIS — Angry protesters took over the streets in Paris on Friday, trying to pressure lawmakers to bring down French President Emmanuel Macron’s government and doom the unpopular retirement age increase he’s trying to impose without a vote in the National Assembly.

A day after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked a special constitutional power to skirt a vote in the chaotic lower chamber, lawmakers on the right and left filed no-confidence motions that are expected to be voted on early next week.

People walk and ride past uncollected garbages in Paris, Friday March 17, 2023, as sanitation workers are on strike. Lewis Joly/Associated Press

Crowds gathered throughout the day Friday, halting cars along a Paris ring road and blocking university campuses. Sanitation workers extended their 12-day strike, leaving piles of foul-smelling rubbish across the capital and blockading Europe’s largest incineration site.

Leaders of the influential leftist CGT union have called on people to leave schools, factories, refineries and other workplaces to force Macron to abandon his plan to make the French to work two more years, until 64, before receiving a full pension.

Macron took a calculated risk ordering Borne to invoke a special constitutional power that she had used 10 times before without triggering such an outpouring of anger.

If the no-confidence votes fail, the bill becomes law. If a majority agrees, it would spell the end of the retirement reform plan and force the government to resign, although Macron could always reappoint Borne to name the new Cabinet.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight, most of them in Paris, where police used a water cannon to clear thousands from the Place de Concorde. Small groups then moved through the area’s chic neighborhoods, setting street fires along the way.

Similar scenes repeated themselves in other cities, from Rennes and Nantes in eastern France to Lyon and the southern port city of Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were smashed.

Some yellow vest activists, who mounted formidable protests against Macron’s economic policies during his first term, joined the rallies and called for a march on the parliament Friday evening.

Trade unions organizing the opposition urged demonstrators to remain peaceful during more strikes and marches in the days ahead.

“We are not going to stop,” CGT union representative Régis Vieceli told The Associated Press on Friday. He said overwhelming the streets with discontent and refusing to continue working is “the only way that we will get them to back down.”

Macron has made the proposed pension changes the key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to make the French economy more competitive and to keep the pension system from diving into deficit. France, like many richer nations, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancy.

A burning container placed by dock workers blocks the Marseille port entrance in Marseille, southern France, Friday, March 17, 2023. Daniel Cole/Associated Press

Macron’s conservative allies in the Senate passed the bill, but frantic counts of lower-house lawmakers …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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