New pension protests in France ahead of crucial vote – Times of India

PARIS: France again faced protests on Sunday against a hotly contested pension reform enacted by the president Emmanuel Macron‘s government, a day before crucial votes of no confidence in parliament.
After weeks of peaceful strikes and marches against raising the official retirement age from 62 to 64, police closed the Place de la Concorde opposite parliament to demonstrations on Saturday after two consecutive nights of clashes.
Some individual lawmakers were targeted, with Eric Ciotti — leader of the conservative Republican party who was not expected to support the no-confidence motions — finding early Sunday that his constituency office had been stone-pelted overnight.
“The killers who did this want to put pressure on my vote on Monday,” Ciotti wrote on Twitter, posting photos of smashed windows and menacing graffiti.
More than 80 people were arrested on Saturday during a 4,000-strong demonstration in Paris, where some set fire to rubbish bins, destroyed bus stops and erected makeshift barricades.
And another 15 were detained in Lyon after police said “groups of violent individuals” caused clashes.
Other demonstrations in cities across France were peaceful, with hundreds in the Mediterranean port city of Marseille.
“What do we have besides continuing to demonstrate?” said Roman Morizota 33-year-old telecom engineer, at the protest in Marseille.
After the government used a constitutional provision to bypass a parliamentary vote on pension reform, “that will now spark social tensions everywhere,” Morizot added.
“We keep going, we have no choice”.
Away from the streets of major cities, the hard-left CGT union said on Saturday that workers would close France’s largest oil refinery in Normandy, warning two more could follow on Monday.
Until now, strikers had only prevented fuel deliveries from leaving the refineries, but not stopped them completely.
Industrial action has also halted waste collection in much of Paris, with around 10,000 tonnes of rubbish on the streets as the government forces some garbage collectors back to work.
A ninth day of wider strikes and protests is scheduled for Thursday.
People close to Macron told AFP that the president “of course followed developments” on the ground.
In addition to raising the general retirement age, MacronThe pension fund reform also increases the number of years people have to pay into the system to receive a full pension.
The government says its changes are necessary to avoid crippling deficits in coming decades due to the aging French population.
But opponents say the law places an unfair burden on low earners, women and those who do physical work, and polls have consistently shown majorities opposed to the changes.
A poll of 2,000 people published in the weekly Journal du Dimanche on Sunday gave Macron an approval rating of 28 percent, the lowest since 2019’s massive “yellow vest” demonstrations against a new fuel tax.
After Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used Article 49.3 of the constitution to pass the law without a vote in the National Assembly’s lower house, opponents’ last hope to block the reform is to overthrow the government in one of the no-confidence motions of Monday.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt told the JDD that “it is not an admission of failure, but it is heartbreaking” to have used the nuclear option to push through the reform.
The pension changes were “too important to risk playing Russian roulette,” he added, after weeks of concessions to Republicans – long before the retirement age increase – failed to get enough Conservative lawmakers on board to a majority.
Few lawmakers in the unruly Republican group are expected to vote against the government in Monday’s no-confidence motions tabled by a small group of centrist MPs and the far-right National Rally.
Ciotti said he didn’t want to “add chaos to chaos”.

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