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French union leader vows to keep fighting Macron’s pension plan



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks past graffiti while demonstrators protest against the government’s pension reform plan in Paris, France, March 11, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) – French unions will keep on fighting against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plan despite the upper house of parliament approving the text on Saturday, a leader of one of the main unions said on Sunday.

Laurent Berger, secretary general of France’s largest union the CFDT, also warned Macron’s government against forcing the parliament’s hand by pushing the text through without a vote from MPs of the National Assembly, using a procedure known as 49:3 after the related article in the French constitution.

“Given the mobilisation of the population, the level of opposition to the plan (…) you cannot resort to a democratic flaw by using this 49:3 procedure,” he said on BFM TV.

“In my opinion, (using 49:3) would be very dangerous as it risks creating a great degree of bitterness,” Berger added.

Now that the Senate has passed the pension reform, whose key measure is raising the retirement age by two years to 64, it will be reviewed by a joint committee of lower and upper house lawmakers, probably on Wednesday.

French unions have called for an eighth round of nationwide demonstrations on that day to keep up the pressure on the government and parliament.

If the committee agrees on a text, both chambers will have a final vote, most likely Thursday, but the outcome of that still seems uncertain in the lower chamber, where Macron’s party does not have an outright majority.

It needs the support of the conservative Les Republicains party in the National Assembly. But some of them have said they would not approve the text and there are even cracks in the presidential camp, with Macron’s former Environment Minister Barbara Pompili opposing it.

Even though Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has repeatedly said she wanted to avoid resorting to the 49:3 procedure to push the reform through, she might have no other option if there is a real risk of not having enough votes.

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