Pension protests enter seventh day in France

A million people march in cities across the country to voice their objections to President Macron's reforms

Protesters march in Toulouse, south-western France, as part of a nationwide day of strikes called by unions over proposed pension reforms. AFP
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A million people are taking to the streets across France on Saturday, as the protests against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms roll into a seventh day.

In a rare display of unity, a coalition of French unions hopes to keep up pressure on the government to withdraw the reforms, whose key measure is a two-year extension of the retirement age to 64.

The continuing strikes have affected refineries, public transport and refuse collection, while a possible vote on the text of the reforms by the upper house of the Parliament is expected on Sunday night.

Rolling industrial action

A TotalEnergies representative told Reuters that the strikes were continuing on at the company's refineries and fuel depots, while public railway operator SNCF said national and regional services would remain heavily disrupted over the weekend.

In Paris, rubbish is piling up on the streets, with some residents reporting a growing presence of rats, according to local media.

The right-leaning Senate, aligning with Mr Macron's centrist Renaissance party, is expected to vote in favour of the pension reform.

If that happens, the bill will be reviewed by a joint committee of lower and upper house politicians, probably next week.

If that committee agrees on a text, a final vote in both chambers of Parliament would likely go ahead, but the outcome of such a vote still appears uncertain.

"A lot of things can still happen next week," Marylise Leon, deputy secretary general of the CFDT union, the country's largest, told Franceinfo radio.

"Will the text be voted in the National Assembly? We have to rally. It's now or never."

Updated: March 11, 2023, 12:54 PM