Emmanuel Macron has signed into law his controversial pension reform, a move that has drawn accusations of “contempt” from unions and the left who have been protesting against it for three months.
The law was published in France’s official journal in the early hours of the morning, prompting claims from the opposition that Macron was trying to push it through in secrecy. This came shortly after the Constitutional Council approved the legislation on Friday, which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The standoff with unions and the left has become the biggest challenge of Macron’s second mandate, and he is scheduled to address the crisis in a televised speech on Monday evening, as confirmed by the Elysee. Trade unions have already announced plans for mass Labour Day protests on May 1, and there were reports of violent demonstrations in several cities, including Paris, after the court verdict was announced.
Critics, including opposition leaders and union bosses, have condemned Macron’s swift signing of the law as showing “disdain” towards the protest movement and called it a “democratic hold-up.” The night-time announcement has been described as a “violent contempt” towards the population and trade unions by the leader of the CGT union, Sophie Binet.
The Constitutional Council’s decision to uphold the key provisions of the pension reform, despite rejecting some minor proposals, means that the law has now been enacted.
The retirement age has been officially raised to 64, and the years of work required for a full pension have been extended. Macron has argued that these changes are necessary to address projected pension deficits and bring France in line with other European countries that have increased their retirement age.
However, Macron’s approval ratings have suffered, and many voters have expressed outrage over his decision to push the pension law through parliament without a vote, using a legal but controversial mechanism criticized as anti-democratic by opponents. Polls consistently show that two-thirds of French people are against working two additional years.
Macron has defended the reform as necessary to address pension deficits projected to reach 13.5 billion euros ($14.8 billion) by 2030, according to government estimates.
Macron’s address on Monday evening is expected to focus on “pacification,” according to government spokesman Olivier Veran. But opponents of the reform have vowed to continue their protests, with unions calling for a “popular and historic tidal wave” of people on the streets on May 1. Railway unions have also announced a day of “railway anger” on April 20 as a prelude to the planned protests.