France's Macron signs highly-disputed pension law despite protests

Macron signed the bill on Saturday, raising the pension age from 62 to 64

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Web Desk
Protestors clash with police officers during a demonstration against the French Government´s pension reform hours after it was signed into law in Rennes, western France, on April 15, 2023.
Protestors clash with police officers during a demonstration against the French Government´s pension reform hours after it was signed into law in Rennes, western France, on April 15, 2023. 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday signed into law his highly disfavored pension reforms, lifting the pension age from 62 to 64.

The signing came hours after France's top constitutional body cleared the change.

The Constitutional Council annulled the opposition's demand for a referendum - however, it also removed some aspects of the reforms, citing legal flaws.

Protesters set fires across Paris, and 112 people were arrested following the council's ruling.

Since the reforms in January, twelve days of demonstrations have been held.

Labour unions have professed to persist in fighting the reforms and called on workers across France to return to the streets on 1 May.

However, President Macron claims the reforms are vital to containing the pension system from crumpling. In March, the government used a special constitutional power to force through the changes without a vote.

Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt says he expects the reforms will be in effect by September.

After the Friday ruling of the Constitutional Court, trade unions made an unsuccessful last-ditch appeal to the president not to sign the pension-age increase into law.

The unions pointed out that the court rejected the six concessions that had been added to the reforms, so what was already unjust was now "even more unbalanced".

Among the reforms struck down by the nine members of the Constitutional Council was a so-called "senior index" aimed at urging companies with more than 1,000 workers to take on employees over 55.

Mr Dussopt has vowed to enhance the employment rates of those aged over 50 to ease worries about the economic effects of the increased retirement age.

The authorities had banned protests in front of the Constitutional Council establishment in Paris until Saturday morning, but protesters had gathered nearby on Friday, and the ruling was met with hoots.

Some demonstrators chanted they would persist in protesting until the changes were withdrawn.

Later, several fires were set across the city as riot police tried to control the crisis, periodically using tear gas. A Paris police official said 112 people have been arrested.

Fires were also lit during demonstrations in Rennes and Nantes, while there were tense standoffs at times between protesters and police in Lyon.

Lucy, 21, was among the protesters who gathered outside the City Hall and told that she was disappointed "we don't have the power any more".

"Nobody is listening to us no matter how hard we are shouting," she added, vowing to keep on speaking out.