On March 16, the French government invoked the emergency provision Article 49.3 of the Constitution in the parliament and passed a controversial pension reform, bypassing the parliamentary vote. The decision announced by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to avoid voting on the pension reforms envisaged in the ‘law of amending financing of Social Security for 2023’, provoked ire from progressive legislators of the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) coalition as well as large sections of civil society. Spontaneous protests have already broken out across the country condemning the forced approval of the bill.
The pension reform proposed by the French government on January 10 of this year, calls for an increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 and also stipulates a mandatory 43 years of service before one is entitled to a full pension or benefits.
While the parliamentary bloc that supports the pension reform has a clear majority in the Senate, it would seem that the government was not confident about its support in the lower house of parliament, which may explain why it bypassed the normal legislative process. As per constitutional provisions, the bill will be considered validated, unless the opposition files and passes a non confidence motion against the government in the parliament within 24 hours (by Friday evening) after invoking Article 49.3.
The move comes amid a wave of mass mobilizations against the pension reform which has been deemed by major trade unions and society as anti-worker. A survey done by L’Humanite, found that 65% of people in the country support the strikes and protests against the pension reforms proposed by Emmanuel Macron’s government.
France’s General Confederation of Labor (CGT), estimated that around 3.5 million people have participated in demonstrations in 270 cities and towns across the country, in addition to workplace pickets. Students have also organized blockades in 39 universities across France. The strikes have affected transport, schools, the energy sector, industries, municipal services, and government offices, among others.
On March 7 and 8, the coordination of the trade unions organized a two day national strike against the reforms, and on March 15, alone, more than 1.5 million people demonstrated across the country.
The CGT figures also suggest that 70% of the population and 94% of the workers are against the pension reforms.
On Thursday evening, while addressing the media, French Communist Party (PCF) leader Fabien Roussel MP stated that “this reform is illegitimate and the prime minister, by announcing the 49-3, humiliates the parliament. She is not worthy of the Republic. The mobilization must go on!”
NUPES leader Jean-Luc Melenchon accused that “the pension reforms have no parliamentary legitimacy. It is a spectacular failure and a collapse of the presidential minority. United unions call for continued action. That is what we are going to work on.”