Protests surge in France against abuse of constitutional provisions to defend pension reforms

The French working class is protesting attempts by the government of President Emmanuel Macron to invoke constitutional provisions to block a bill mooted by opposition groups to repeal the pension reformsJune 07, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch

7-06 French Protests

Protest mobilization in Paris on June 6, 2023. (Photo: via La CGT)

In the 14th major mobilization since January, French workers hit the streets across the country on Tuesday, June 6, protesting the controversial pension reforms forcefully passed by the Emmanuel Macron-led government which increased the retirement age from 62 to 64. The mobilization was called by a coordination of trade unions, left-wing parties of the New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES) coalition, as well as various youth groups. According to the union estimates, over 900,000 people participated in the protests in 250 different locations. Around 300,000 people marched in Paris alone, denouncing the unpopular pension reforms. The protesting unions have expressed support for a bill tabled by opposition groups in the French National Assembly calling to repeal the pension reforms. A vote on the bill will take is likely to take place on June 8.

The pension reforms were announced by French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on January 10, and stipulated the phased raising of the retirement age from 62 to 64 at a rate of three months per year from September 1, 2023 until 2030. Additionally, workers would have to work for 43 years instead of the current 42 to get a full-rate pension. On March 16, the government used the emergency provision Article 49.3 of the French constitution to bypass final voting on the bill in the National Assembly and passed the 2023 Social Security Financing Adjustment Law amidst fierce opposition from the NUPES and the French working class. The government narrowly survived a no-confidence motion pushed by the opposition on March 20 over the bill. Two requests by the opposition parties to conduct a referendum on raising the retirement age were also denied by the French Constitutional Council.

Now opponents of the reforms, including the NUPES coalition, are pushing a bill tabled by the Liberties, Independents, Overseas and Territories (LIOT) parliamentary bloc to repeal the law. However, the president of the National Assembly has hinted at the possibility of invoking Article 40 of the French constitution to dismiss this bill. Under Article 40, any proposals or amendments made by parliamentarians that would decrease revenue or increase public expenses are not permitted. The discretionary power to determine the admissibility of a bill on these bases currently rests with the president of the National Assembly’s Financial Committee, Eric Coquerel, a legislator from the left-wing La France Insoumise (LFI)

In its statement on May 31, the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) denounced the government’s abuse of constitutional instruments to defend its anti-worker pension reforms.