French unions have called for another national strike next Thursday (April 13) as protests over controversial pension reforms continue.
It will come on the eve of a pivotal Friday (April 14) ruling by France’s Constitutional Council about the government’s changes, which include raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.
On Thursday (April 6), more than 500,000 people hit the streets to demonstrate, according to France’s interior ministry, although unions claimed the figure was closer to two million.
In Paris, protestors stormed the headquarters of the BlackRock investment company, as well as set fire to La Rotonde, a Montparnasse brasserie that is one of President Emmanuel Macron’s favourite restaurants. It is where he ate - and celebrated - his 2017 election victory over Marine Le Pen.
Thursday’s violence saw 77 police officers injured, the interior ministry added, with 13 of them hospitalised.
Speaking earlier this week, Laurent Berger, leader of the moderate CFDT union, said Macron’s position was weak "in a country that so rejects reform with so much dissent and such a low approval rating."
Macron’s approval rating is around 30%, which is approaching his all-time lowest score at the height of the ‘gilets jaunes’ protests.
This week an opinion poll gave Le Pen a 10-point lead over Macron if the 2017 and 2022 presidential run-off votes were to be held again.
When will the protests end?
Thursday’s protests came after talks between French unions and Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne broke down after less than an hour.
With discussions at a standstill, fresh strikes announced and people still hitting the streets to protest, some feel the demonstrations will become a fixture of French life.
Insisting unions would keep saying what they thought of the reforms, Mr Berger conceded protests can only last so long.
“Perhaps there will be an end, and this law will be promulgated and will be applied,” he said.
In that case: “If you ask whether there will still be a demonstration in a week, in six months' time, the answer is no.”
France’s Constitutional Council will rule on the reforms next Friday (April 14).
Read more: France’s constitutional court sets date for ruling on pension reforms
The council has the power to strike down some or all of the bill if it is deemed out of line with France’s constitution.
It will also rule whether a bid to hold a referendum on the reforms is admissible.
The ruling will be seen as decisive – it will either force the government to backtrack on the bill or will exhaust all legal routes for those opposing it.