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9 Mar, 2023 10:44

French Senate votes on controversial pension reform

Despite strong opposition from labor unions and violent protests, lawmakers decided in favor of raising the retirement age by two years
French Senate votes on controversial pension reform

French labor unions have vowed to put pressure on the government after senators on Thursday voted in favor of raising the national retirement age from 62 to 64. Protests and strikes staged ahead of the measure’s passage have already caused major disruptions.

The controversial amendment to France’s pension system was approved in a 201 to 115 vote after after a week of deliberations in the conservative-dominated Senate. Debate will resume later on Thursday to conclude parliamentary formalities, with the Senate majority aiming to finalize the legislation by Sunday.

Liberal politicians have voiced their frustration after the result, with some arguing that the reform will “set the clock back almost 40 years.” Meanwhile, labor unions have vowed to stage protests and strikes in opposition to the bill.

Unrest over the pension reform has been escalating for several weeks now. On Tuesday, trade unions called for bringing the country “to a halt.” As a result, for the past two days, France has essentially been paralyzed as thousands have taken to the streets to hold nationwide strikes and rallies.

Protesters have blockaded major higher education establishments, erected barricades in front of bus depots, held up traffic on roads and highways, and obstructed fuel shipments out of oil refineries. Transportation workers themselves have also gone on strike, with France’s national railway operator stating that train movement and metro operations across the country are “very severely disrupted.” Airlines have also been requested to reduce scheduled flights out of Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris by 20% and 30%, respectively.

Nearly 1.28 million people took part in the nationwide protests on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to France 24. Unions are now calling for a new day of nationwide demonstrations on Sunday.

Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron has insisted that raising the retirement age and stiffening requirements for a full pension are “essential” due to projected deficits in the system over the next 25 years.

Nevertheless, the reform has proven deeply unpopular among the public, with almost 60% supporting protests against it, according to an Elabe poll published on Monday.