French unions slam decision to bypass parliament and impose pension reform

French unions slam decision to bypass parliament and impose pension reform

The trade union coalition fighting against pension reform in France called on Thursday for "local proximity rallies" this weekend, and for a ninth day of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday 23 March, following the government's decision to use a highly criticised article of the French Constitution to impose the reform.

Denouncing a "forced" passage, the coalition wrote in a statement that it "seriously measures the responsibility that the executive bears in the social and political crisis that results from this decision, a real denial of democracy."

On Thursday afternoon, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that the government of President Emmanuel Macron would use Article 49.3 of the Constitution to push through the pension reform, thus sidelining parliament, where it was not sure to be approved by both houses. Critics view Article 49.3 as undemocratic since it allows a text to be adopted without a vote.

The unions' call came as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of French cities once again on Thursday to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s pension reform plan, which includes raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

Protesters rocked barricades and set them on fire. In Paris, riot police fired rubber bullets and deployed tear gas and water cannons at the Place de la Concorde, where thousands of people had gathered. In the evening, officers carried out charges to push back and disperse the protesters. At least 120 protesters were arrested in the French capital.

French media reported unrest in several other cities, including Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Dijon. In Lille, two protesters ended up in hospital with injuries. In Rennes, bus shelters and an estate agent’s office suffered.

Demonstrations have been held in France since January against the pension reform plan. Nationwide days of action, including strikes on public transport, have attracted millions of participants.

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