PARIS: Despite strikes, protests, and piling up garbage, the French Senate passed a contentious bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted late Saturday that she is looking forward to the bill’s definitive passage, calling the vote a “decisive step toward a reform that will assure the future of our retirement” system.
However, the bill must now navigate complex political terrain with a variety of possible outcomes.
On Wednesday, when unions planned their eighth round of nationwide protest marches, the bill will first be sent to a committee of seven senators and seven lower-house lawmakers to find a compromise between the two houses’ versions of the text.
Despite a strike by garbage workers opposed to the bill and reduced services and supplies in other sectors like transportation and energy, President Emmanuel Macron is unfazed.
Macron’s refusal to meet with unions was described as “giving the finger” by the leader of the left-leaning CGT union, Philippe Martinez.
Saturday, after another day of marches that drew far fewer people into the streets than protest marches four days earlier, a union requested a “citizens’ consultation” on the legislation, but the government has yet to respond.
After the Senate voted, Senate President Gerard Larcher expressed his satisfaction with the work of his colleagues, saying that the conservative right-controlled chamber had acted “with only one objective whatever our feelings are, the interest of the country and the interest of the French people.”
Unions claim that French citizens are rejecting the reform by taking to the streets and holding strikes, which have continued albeit been scaled back in some areas.
The government is hoping to keep from having to use a special constitutional power to bypass a vote in parliament on the bill. Legitimacy of the pension plan would be bolstered by parliamentary approval.
However, the reform’s future is clouded by the fact that it could go one of several ways before being enacted.
If the joint committee can reach an agreement on pension reform on Wednesday, the Senate and National Assembly, the lower house, would vote on the proposal on Thursday.
If the Senate and the National Assembly can’t come to terms, the bill will go back to the National Assembly for a final vote. The Prime Minister, Borne, expressed confidence that the measure would be “definitively adopted in the coming days.”