France Pension Reforms: Constitutional Council raises retirement age to 64

  • By Kathyrn Armstrong
  • BBC News

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WATCH: Paris protester says Macron’s pension reforms ‘violent’

France’s top constitutional body has approved the Macron government’s highly unpopular move to raise the state pension age from 62 to 64.

President Emmanuel Macron is expected to sign the reform law within 48 hours.

The Constitutional Council rejected opposition calls for a referendum, but also attacked some aspects of the reforms, citing legal flaws.

In Paris, protesters set fires across the city and 112 people were arrested.

There were 12 days of protests against the reforms since January.

President Macron argues that reforms are necessary to prevent the collapse of the pension system. In March, the government used a special constitutional power to implement the changes without a referendum.

On Friday, unions made a last-ditch appeal to the president not to sign the pension age increase legislation in the face of “overwhelming public rejection of this reform”.

Unions pointed out that six concessions included in the reforms were rejected by the court, so what was already unfair was now “even more unbalanced”.

Among the reforms struck by the nine members of the Constitutional Council was a so-called “senior code” aimed at requiring companies with more than 1,000 workers to hire employees over the age of 55.

Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt has pledged to improve employment rates for the over-50s in a bid to ease concerns about the financial impact of a raised retirement age.

Authorities had banned demonstrations in front of the Constitutional Council building in Paris until Saturday morning, but crowds of protesters gathered nearby and the ruling was mocked.

Some protesters chanted that they will continue the protest until the changes are rolled back.

Later, several fires were set across the city as riot police tried to control the situation, sometimes using tear gas. A Paris police official said 112 people had been arrested.

Fires were set during demonstrations in Rennes and Nantes, while in Lyon there were sometimes tense stand-offs between protesters and police.

He is expected to pass the law within two days, with the Elysée Palace saying the president is open to dialogue. Mr Dussopt has said he expects the reforms to be implemented by early September.

Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne tweeted on Friday, “No winner tonight, no loser”.

Lucy, 21, was one of the protesters who gathered outside City Hall and told the BBC she was disappointed “we don’t have the power anymore”.

“No matter how much we shout, no one listens to us,” he added, vowing to keep talking.

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Lucy (left) and Raphael (right) protest against pension reforms.

Raphaëlle, 21, said she hoped the council’s ruling would have something to do with the overwhelming consensus on the streets against the reforms.

Barricades were set up in the streets near the court, and riot police were deployed in case of violent protests.

Unions called on workers across France to return to the streets on May 1 in another day of national mobilization against the reforms.

Lucas, 27, said he was worried about the future and what Mr Macron expected for the rest of his presidency.

The left-wing Nupes political alliance was among the groups that appealed the reforms to court, and its leader, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, said the “fight” would continue.

“The decision of the Constituent Assembly shows that the presidential monarchy is paying more attention to the needs of the sovereign people than to the needs of the sovereign people,” he said.

Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally, which appealed to the court, responded on social media that “the political fate of the pension reform is not sealed”.

Although the court rejected an initial bid for a referendum on the reforms, it will decide next month on the left’s further proposal for a national referendum.

Antoine Bristel, a French political analyst, told the BBC that he did not see an end to the protests that have been raging across France for the past three months.

“A lot of people said that the reforms will be passed and the Constitutional Court will not avoid it, so that’s not surprising,” he said.

“But with 70% of French people still against reform, I think we will see a lot of riots and strikes in the country in the coming hours and over the weekend.”

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