French Constitutional Council denies second request for a referendum on controversial pension reforms

Protests continue across France demanding the scrapping of the pension reforms law forcefully enacted by the Emmanuel Macron-led government. The reform increases the retirement age in the county from 62 to 64

May 04, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch

On the evening of Wednesday, May 3, the French Constitutional Council denied for the second time a request by opposition legislators to initiate a referendum on the controversial pension reforms passed by the Emmanuel Macron-led government, which call to increase the retirement age in the country from 62 to 64. The French left and trade unions are outraged at the denial of the request for a Referendum of Shared Initiative (RIP). The earlier request for a referendum was also denied by the council on April 14. Now, a draft proposal for a law abrogating the retirement age, submitted by the parliamentary group Liberties, Independents, Overseas, and Territories (LIOT), will be considered on June 8 in the National Assembly. The trade unions have already given calls for major mobilizations in the first week of June ahead of the convening of the National Council.

The pension reforms were announced by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on January 10. The reforms stipulate the phased raising of the retirement age in France from 62 to 64, at the rate of three months per year, from September 1, 2023 until 2030. They also increase the contribution period necessary to obtain a “full-rate” pension, i.e. without discount, from the current 42 years (168 quarters) to 43 years (172 quarters) by 2027, at the rate of one quarter per year. 

Read: Pension Reform or Revolution! Crisis for the French Fifth Republic?

Shortly following the announcement in January, massive protests were organized against the reforms by trade unions including the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and the left-wing coalition New Ecologic and Social Peoples Union (NUPES). However, on March 16, Prime Minister Borne invoked emergency provision Article 49.3 of the constitution to bypass voting in the National Assembly and then passed the law which includes the controversial pension reforms. The protests intensified when the government survived a vote of no-confidence on March 20, which had been tabled by opposition groups in the National Assembly, but failed after falling short of just nine votes. On May 1, around 2.3 million people joined rallies in more than 310 demonstrations across the country demanding withdrawal of the reforms and scrapping the rise in retirement age, according to the CGT.

Responding to the constitutional council’s denial of the request for a referendum, Fabien Roussel, leader of the French Communist Party (PCF),  in a tweet called on the French working class to hit the streets on June 6 and asked legislators to oppose the reforms in the National Assembly on June 8.