France’s President Emmanuel Macron is facing more nationwide protests over a controversial pension law that has caused social unrest. Last month, he signed a law to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, despite months of strikes against the bill. Unions and opposition parties are hoping for a mass turnout at May Day rallies to let Macron know they continue to oppose the pension overhaul. This marks the first time since 2009 that all eight of France’s main unions have joined in calling for protests.
Almost three in four French people are unhappy with Macron, according to a survey by the IFOP polling group. France has been rocked by a dozen days of nationwide strikes and protests against Macron and his pension changes since mid-January, some of which have turned violent. However, momentum has waned in recent weeks as workers appear unwilling to continue to sacrifice pay. Macron won a second five-year term last year but lost his parliamentary majority in June elections.
Protests in recent weeks have taken on a more humorous tone, with demonstrators clanging kitchenware to drown out Macron during a speech to the nation after approving the pension law last month. At a football match on Saturday, union activists distributed red cards and whistles to fans coming to watch the final of the French Cup. However, security staff confiscated most whistles as supporters entered the stadium.
Labour unions last month walked out of talks with the government after it refused to budge on the pension reform’s headline measure of raising the retirement age. But CFDT union leader Laurent Berger said that did not mean an end to all talks between unions and the government, even after the reform was signed into law. If invited, “the CFDT… will go and talk like a union in a firm does with a boss — even shortly after that boss did them a nasty turn,” he said.