France is facing another day of protests and strikes on Thursday, April 6, as the government and unions remain at loggerheads over a controversial pension reform. The reform, which was pushed through parliament without a vote last month, raises the retirement age by two years to 64 and merges 42 different pension schemes into one.
The unions have called for a “maximum” mobilization of workers across the country to denounce what they see as an attack on their rights and living standards. They have also demanded that the government withdraw the reform and open a new round of negotiations.
The protests, which have been going on since January, have drawn hundreds of thousands of people to the streets and have often turned violent. They have also disrupted public transport, schools, airports, oil refineries and nuclear plants.
The government says the reform is necessary to simplify the pension system and make it more sustainable in the face of an ageing population. It also says it has made concessions to some sectors, such as teachers and health workers, who will get higher salaries or bonuses to compensate for the changes.
However, the unions say the reform is unfair and will force people to work longer for lower pensions. They also accuse the government of using a constitutional loophole to bypass parliament and impose the reform without a proper debate.
The latest round of talks between Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and union leaders on Wednesday ended in a stalemate after just an hour. Borne said the reform was “irreversible” and that there was no room for further compromise. The unions said they were “disgusted” by the government’s attitude and vowed to continue their fight.
The protests are seen as the biggest challenge to President Emmanuel Macron’s authority since he took office in 2017. They have also eroded his popularity and undermined his image as a reformer. Macron is currently on a state visit to China, where he is seeking to boost trade and cooperation.
Polls show that a majority of French people oppose the pension reform and support the protests. However, some also say they are tired of the social unrest and want a resolution to the crisis.