© AP/Lewis JolyParis protest, Saturday, March 11, 2023
Nationwide demonstrations were held in Paris and other French cities for the seventh time this year with thousands rejecting the government's pension reform plan, according to media reports.
The protests started earlier in cities such as Nice and Toulouse
, while thousands started rallying in Paris in the afternoon.
Tense scenes were witnessed in Paris during the protests, as some groups threw projectiles at police officers who intervened with force, according to broadcaster BFMTV.
Authorities arrested 32 people during the protests in Paris
, Le Figaro newspaper said citing the French police. Some were arrested before the protests in Paris for carrying prohibited arms, including a liter of burning alcohol, the police said on Twitter.
The General Labor Confederation announced that more than a million people protested in France, including 300,000 in Paris
, while the Interior Ministry counted 368,000 protesters nationwide, including 48,000 in Paris.
Trade unions jointly published a statement on Twitter after the protests, repeating their call on the government to consult French citizens regarding the reform project.
They also criticized President Emmanuel Macron for refusing their demand to meet
.The unions also confirmed their next nationwide mobilization day, which will be March 15.
The reform plans include raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 in 2030 and requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for full pensions.
These demonstrations are ostensibly about the pension reforms, however with over half of France supporting rolling
strikes, and these rallies coming on the back of the Yellow Vest protests, that ignited following a fuel price hike, it's reasonable to conclude that citizens are in revolt over plummeting living standards, across the board, of which the pension hike is but one; because the same sentiment is felt across the West, and protests in various European nations have erupted as a result:
The protests - and rolling strikes that have affected refineries, public transport and garbage collections - aimed to pressure the government to withdraw the pension plan, which it said is essential to ensure the pension system does not run out of money.
"After hundreds of hours of discussions, the Senate adopted the pension reform plan. It is a key step to make a reform happen that will guarantee the future of our pension system," Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter.
She added she was "totally committed to ensure the text will be definitively adopted in the coming days".
Now that the Senate has adopted the bill, it will be reviewed by a joint committee of lower and upper house lawmakers, probably on Wednesday.
If the committee agrees on a text, a final vote in both chambers is likely to take place on Thursday, but the outcome of that still seems uncertain in the lower chamber, the National Assembly, where Macron's party needs allies' votes for a majority.
If the government fears it won't have enough votes in the lower house, it is still possible for it to push the text through without a parliamentary vote, via a so-called 49:3 procedure.
Opinion polls show a majority of voters oppose Macron's plan, while a slim majority supports the strike actions.
LOWER POWER SUPPLY DUE TO STRIKES
"A lot of things can still happen next week," Marylise Leon, deputy secretary general of the CFDT union, the country's largest, told Franceinfo radio. "Will the text be voted in the National Assembly? We have to rally. It's now or never."
A spokesperson for TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) said that strikes continue in the oil major's French refineries and depots, while public railway operator SNCF said national and regional services would remain heavily disrupted over the weekend.
In Paris, garbage continues to pile up on the streets, with residents seeing a growing presence of rats, according to local media.
National power production in France was reduced by 7.1 gigawatts (GW), or 14%, at nuclear, thermal and hydropower plants on Saturday due to the strikes, a CGT union spokesperson told Reuters.
Maintenance was also blocked at six French nuclear reactors, including Penly 1, the spokesperson said.