Neither protests nor garbage piles stop French pension bill
PARIS (AP) — An unpopular bill that would raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 got a push forward with the French Senate’s adoption of the measure despite labor strikes, street protests and tons of uncollected garbage piling higher by the day.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted late Saturday after the 195-112 vote that she looked forward to the bill’s definitive passage to “assure the future of our retirement” system.
The showcase legislation of President Emmanuel Macron — which carries risks for the government — must now move through tricky political territory with multiple potential outcomes.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a Sunday night meeting and ordered ministers to seek a consensus among lawmakers in the days ahead.
The government hopes it won’t need to resort to a special constitutional option that would force the pension reform through without a vote. Borne has used that mechanism 10 times before, and invoking it for the politically delicate retirement issue could trigger a no-confidence motion.
Government spokesperson Olivier Veran stressed after the meeting that the government wants to avoid employing the constitutional option. But when questioned, he added, “We won’t renounce our reform of the retirement” plan.
With labor unions opposed to the bill, uncollected trash has piled up in Paris and other cities while garbage workers strike. Services in other sectors, such as energy and transportation, also have been affected, through were improving.
Paris City Hall said that as of Sunday, some 5,400 tons of garbage were piled in streets of the French capital, which included in front of the building where the Senate meets. The stench of rotting fish and other food wafted in the wind, especially around some restaurants.
Television news channel CNews quoted Colombe Brossel, deputy mayor for sanitation, as saying the problem was mainly due to blocked incinerators.
Such trials may not end soon. Unions plan more strikes and an eighth round of nationwide protests on Wednesday, the day the pension bill heads to a committee of seven senators and seven lower-house lawmakers.
The joint committee is tasked with finding a compromise between the Senate and National Assembly versions of the legislation.
Parliamentary approval would give a large measure of legitimacy to the pension plan, the reason the government hopes to refrain from invoking its special constitutional power to pass the bill.
But there are multiple scenarios before the legislation could become law, making its path uncertain.
If the parliamentary committee reaches an accord Wednesday, the approved text would be voted on the following day in both the Senate and the National Assembly. However, the outcome in the National Assembly, where Macron’s centrist alliance lost its majority last year, is hard to predict.
If the committee does not reach an agreement, the bill would likely return to the National Assembly for more debate and a vote, then get considered by the Senate before going back to the Assembly.
Borne, the prime minister, tweeted her optimism that the measure would be “definitively adopted in the coming days.”
Macron has not yet responded to a union request for a “citizens’ consultation” on the legislation, made Saturday after protests against raising the retirement age drew far fewer people than a previous round of marches four days earlier.
Unions maintain that French people are voting their opposition to the reform in the streets and through strikes.
Masha Macpherson and Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report.
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