CEO Morning Brief

France Faces New Pension Strikes as Violence Concerns Mount

Publish date: Wed, 29 Mar 2023, 08:58 AM
0 12,004
TheEdge CEO Morning Brief
France faces new pension strikes as violence concerns mount

PARIS (March 28): French unions are holding a 10th day of nationwide protests Tuesday (March 28) to try to force President Emmanuel Macron to hit the brakes on his unpopular pension reform and open fresh talks.

As concerns grow over mounting violence, labour organisations have blamed the government for creating an explosive situation. Marches last Thursday ended in chaos, with hardcore fringes clashing with riot police. Further scuffles have taken place in the days since.

The backlash against raising the minimum retirement age by two years to 64 has escalated since Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on March 16 that Article 49.3 of the constitution would be used to avoid a vote on the bill in the National Assembly.

Since then, there have been 114 acts of vandalism on the local offices of members of parliament, 128 cases of damage to public buildings and 2,179 arson attacks, while almost 900 police officers have been injured, according to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

“Radicalised elements from the ultra left and extreme left are trying to take union marches hostage,” Darmanin told a news conference on Monday. “They come to cause damage, to injure, and to kill the police. Their aims have nothing to do with pension reform.”

The minister said an unprecedented 13,000 officers were being deployed across the country, including 5,500 in the French capital, to head off what he called a very significant risk of breaches of public order.

The police have also come under scrutiny during the protests, with unions, Amnesty International and Council of Europe Commissioner of Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic warning against excessive use of force. Darmanin said 17 internal investigations are ongoing into police behavior at the marches.

Hit pause

Union leaders taking part in Tuesday’s marches called on Macron to hit pause on the reform, drop the age increase to 64, and allow mediation in order to resolve the dispute.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran dismissed the need for third-party involvement, however. He told reporters following a weekly cabinet meeting that the president is ready to speak directly to labor representatives once France’s Constitutional Council has ruled on the conformity of the bill. It has until April 20.

“It’s intolerable that the response is a flat refusal,” the head of the moderate CFDT union, Laurent Berger, said in comments broadcast on French TV. “Everyone can see there’s a need to calm down what’s happening and find a way out. We’ve proposed a way out.”

He added that while the number of protesters is down from last Thursday, opposition to the reform remains strong.

Backing down would raise questions over Macron’s pledge to balance the books and spur the labor market with pro-business reforms. The French Pension Advisory Council estimated the current system could cost the public finances at least 0.5% of GDP annually over the coming decade.

However, pushing ahead by enacting the law risks a prolonged conflict and further splintering parliament, where he has already lost his absolute majority and relies on opposition lawmakers to pass texts in a conventional manner.

What Bloomberg Economics says...

“With no clear solution in sight, Macron’s troubles underscore the difficulty of containing spending without triggering a backlash.”

“So far, activity appears to have held up well and we forecast that France escaped an economic contraction in the first quarter. But as strikes and protests continue, adding to the tightening of monetary conditions and heightened tensions in the financial sector, risks to 2Q23 are clearly to the downside.”

— Maeva Cousin, economist.

The president has attempted to appease the situation by promising to account more for workers in future reforms, including with a measure to force companies to share more of their profits when conducting share buybacks.

Borne has said she is open to talks with opposition and union leaders, and aims to avoid using Article 49.3 again for anything apart from budget bills.

Source: TheEdge - 29 Mar 2023

Be the first to like this. Showing 0 of 0 comments

Post a Comment