Protests erupt in France over Macron’s retirement age push

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Paris after President Macron forced through controversial pension reforms

Protestors and police have clashed in Paris after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in opposition of President Emmanuel Macron's decision to force a bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Macron pushed the highly unpopular bill through parliament after making use of Article 49.3 in the French constitution which allows a government to do so without a vote.

The article while legal, is widely seen as an undemocratic tool used to strong-arm politicians.

Opposition parties are expected to lead a no-confidence vote against the government following the announcement.

The unrest comes just a week before King Charles is expected to make his first state visit to France.

His decision has infuriated opposition politicians, citizens and unions. Wide-spread strikes have taken place in France over the past few weeks, with transport workers, energy workers, dock workers, teachers and public sector workers all downing tools.

Rubbish is set on fire by protesters after a demonstration near Concorde square, in Paris. Credit: AP

An ongoing bin workers strike has left Paris drowning in more than 7,000 tonnes of waste and rubbish.  

Refuse workers are currently able to retire at 57 but under new reforms they would have to continue until they are 59.

Striking sanitation workers have blocked a waste collection plant that is home to Europe's largest incinerator, and university students walked out of lecture halls to join the strikes.

Leaders of the influential CGT union called on people to leave schools, factories, refineries and other work places.

Thousands of protestors gathered at the Place de la Concorde which faces the National Assembly building on Thursday.

Police officers began charging demonstrators in waves once night fell, in an attempt to clear the area.

Smaller groups then dispersed into nearby streets and began setting fires.

The scenes were mirrored in other cities such as Rennes, Nantes, Lyon and Marseille, where shop windows and bank fronts were destroyed, according to French media.

Protestors and police clash over controversial pension reforms

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told radio station RTL on Friday that 310 people were arrested overnight.

Most of the arrests, 258, were made in Paris, according to Darmanin.

The trade unions that had organised strikes and marches against a higher retirement age said more rallies and protest marches would take place in the days ahead.

“This retirement reform is brutal, unjust, unjustified for the world of workers,” they declared.

Macron has made the proposed pension changes the key priority of his second term, arguing that reform is needed to keep the pension system from diving into deficit as France, like many richer nations, faces lower birth rates and longer life expectancy.

Protestors have been staging ongoing demonstrations against the bill since January.

Macron decided to invoke the special power during a Cabinet meeting a few minutes before a scheduled vote in the National Assembly, where the legislation had no guarantee of securing majority support.

Opposition politicians have demanded the government to step down.

If the expected no-confidence motion passes, which requires approval from more than half of the Assembly, it would be a first since 1962 and force the government to resign.

Macron could reappoint Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne if he chooses, and a new Cabinet would be named. If the motion does not succeed, the pension bill would be considered adopted.

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