Garbage was piling up on the streets of Paris and fuel deliveries from refineries were being blocked as workers continued with operations. strikes against pension reformBut French President Emmanuel Macron has refused to meet with the unions, saying the amendments must go ahead.
As reform debate continued in the Senate, workers on Friday blocked fuel outlets from TotalEnergies and Esso refineries as power was interrupted and maintenance on some EDF nuclear reactors was delayed.
So far, the impact has not been significant, since the cold has prevented the garbage in Paris and other cities from stinking. There are no queues at gas stations yet, as motorists and service station operators anticipated the disruptions.
But the hardline CGT union at TotalEnergies’ Donges refinery said the strike would continue at least until Thursday and the garbage collectors’ unions had not set a date for the resumption of services.
In a letter to the unions, Macron refused to accept their request for a meeting, saying the unions had had plenty of time to negotiate with the government in recent months and that now it was time for parliament to review the pension reform, the key measure of which is a two-year extension of the retirement age to 64.
“I do not underestimate the discontent they express or the fear of many French people that there will be no retirement for them,” Macron said in the letter, published by French media. He added that he would not compromise on the need to restore a lasting financial balance to the pension system in order to guarantee the pensions of future generations.
The unions plan more marches across the country for Saturday. According to a note from the Ministry of the Interior quoted by French television bfmthe police expect between 800,000 and 1 million people to demonstrate.
Opinion polls show that two out of three French people oppose the government’s plan to delay the retirement age from 62 to 64 years by 2030 and to advance to 2027 the requirement to contribute 43 years (and not 42 as up to now) to receive a full pension.
The rejection took the form of a series of massive protests since January 19but they did not achieve the withdrawal of the project.
On the other hand, time is pressing for the opponents. The government chose a controversial procedure that limited the days of examination of the project and also allows it to apply it by ordinance if by March 26 the two chambers of Parliament have not ruled.
The Labor Minister, Olivier Dussopt, also activated this Friday a controversial mechanism that further limits the debate in the Senatewhere the project is located, with the hope that the upper house will vote on it before the deadline that ends on Sunday.
This initiative angered the left-wing opposition, which since the beginning of the process has sought parliamentary obstruction of the text. “The government gags the Senate,” denounced the socialist legislator, Patrick Kanner.
The next week is decisive. A group of deputies and senators must agree on a consensus text on Wednesday which, then, the government will submit again to both chambers as of Thursday for its final approval.
With the majority of the Senate in its pocket, the government could activate one last mechanism in the National Assembly (lower house) to ensure the adoption of the reform, which could only be rejected if the opposition presents a motion of censure and wins it.
That mechanism known as the “49.3″ is very controversial. Philippe Martinez, leader of the CGT union, warned that its use would be “very serious for democracy” and would justify the continued and even increased opposition.
(With information from Reuters and AFP)
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