New protests in France over Macron plan to raise pension age

New Protests In France Over Macron Plan To Raise Pension Age
APTOPIX France Pension Protests, © Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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By Elaine Ganley and Jeffrey Schaeffer, Associated Press

Protesters opposing President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age to 64 marched in cities and towns around France on Thursday, in a final show of anger before a decision on whether the measure meets constitutional standards.

In Paris, as thousands marched along the designated protest route, some protesters holding lit flares veered off to the Constitutional Council, which is to decide on Friday whether to reject any or all parts of the legislation.


They faced off with a large contingent of police deployed outside the building, where hours before the march got under way other protesters had dumped bags of rubbish.

APTOPIX France Pension Protests
Youths scuffle with police forces in front of the Paris town hall during the demonstrations (Lewis Joly/AP/PA)

The rubbish piles were cleaned up but signalled the start of a new strike by waste collectors, timed to begin with the nationwide protest marches.


A previous strike last month left the streets of the French capital filled for days with mounds of reeking refuse.

Also before the main march, more than 100 rail workers marched down a Paris street of luxury boutiques, invading luxury conglomerate LVMH offices and going to the first floor before leaving.

Fabien Villedieu of the Sud-Rail Union said LVMH “could reduce all the holes” in France’s social security system.

France Pension Protests
A protester in a wheelchair faces riot police officers during a demonstration in Lille, northern France (Michel Spingler/AP/PA)


He said: “So one of the solutions to finance the pension system is a better redistribution of wealth, and the best way to do that is to tax the billionaires.”

Bernard Arnault, head of LVMH, “is the richest man in the world so he could contribute,” Mr Villedieu said.

Early on in the main Paris protest, security forces intervened to stop vandals damaging a shop, with 15 people detained, police said. As in past protests, several hundred “radical elements” had mixed inside the march, police said.


Thousands also marched in Toulouse, Marseille and elsewhere. Tensions mounted at protests in Brittany, notably in Nantes and Rennes, where a car was burned.

France Pension Protests
Protesters march through Lille in protest at President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age in France (Michel Spingler/AP/PA)

“The mobilisation is far from over,” the leader of the leftist CGT union, Sophie Binet, said at a waste incineration site south of Paris where several hundred protesters blocked garbage trucks.


“As long as this reform isn’t withdrawn, the mobilisation will continue in one form or another.”

CGT has been a backbone of the protest and strike movement challenging Macron’s plan to increase France’s retirement age from 62 to 64. Eight unions have organised protests since January in a rare show of unity. Student unions have joined in.

Mr Macron had initially refused a demand to meet unions, but during a state visit on Wednesday to the Netherlands proposed “an exchange” to discuss the follow-up to the Constitutional Council decision. There was no formal response to his offer.

France Pension Protests
Police use tear gas as protesters take to the streets in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP/PA)

Unions hoped for a strong turnout on Thursday to pressure both the government and the members of the Constitutional Council tasked with studying the text of the pension reform plan.

Critics challenged the government’s choice to include the pension plan in a budget bill, which significantly accelerated the legislative process. The government’s decision to skirt a parliamentary vote by using special constitutional powers angered opponents.

Polls consistently show a majority of French people are opposed to the pension reform.

“The contention is strong, anchored in the people,” said Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT union. If the measure is promulgated, “there will be repercussions,” he warned, noting the “silent anger” among the union rank and file.

Metro trains were mostly running smoothly Thursday. The civil aviation authority asked airports in Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes to reduce air traffic by 20%.

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