France pension reform: strike and protest dates, calendar for bill

Unions are encouraged by Thursday’s protests which saw more than a million march in the street and plan further action

The CGT is among the large unions involved in the strikes
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France’s unions are determined to continue action against the government’s planned pension reforms after more than a million people showed support for Thursday’s first day of action.

President Emmanuel Macron says he stands behind the reforms with “determination” and that they had been “democratically validated” by the presidential election as he cited them as a reelection pledge and he won.

The government says pension reform is vital to ensure the system does not go bust. Pushing back the retirement age by two years from 62 to 64 and thus extending the contribution period would allow it to balance the books.

Unions argue that there are other ways to finance pensions, such as raising taxes on the super-rich or increasing employers' contributions or those of well-off pensioners.

It is difficult to predict how sustained the movement will be this year, however here we detail what is expected over the coming days and weeks.

Read more: France strikes: Will they continue? Will they work? What experts say

Saturday January 21

Several organisations representing lycée and university students are marching today in Paris as a follow-up to Thursdays strike and protest action.

Supported by the far-left La France Insoumise party, the groups include La Voix Lycéenne, L’Alternative étudiante, les Jeunes Insoumis and others.

Monday January 23

The pension reform bill will be presented to the Conseil des ministres, the first stage of its progress through parliament.

Coinciding with this, unions have jointly called for workers to “multiply actions and initiatives everywhere in France, in businesses and services, in places of study..”.

Tuesday January 31

All the largest unions have confirmed this as the next major date set for widespread strikes.

The unions say the movement has to continue against the “unacceptable” reforms, which they claim “go against the interests of the population”.

They have calculated that giving workers 11 days since the last major strike day was enough time for workers to rally again to support the day.

The end of the month was also chosen so as to help workers who fear they cannot lose two pay days in the middle of the month.

Read more: Pension protests: new strike day after million plus march

Early February

MPs are expected to start to look at the bill from February 6.

Commentators believe it possible the government will take advantage of two different constitutional mechanisms to speed the bill’s progress through parliament.

This could include forcing the transfer of the bill to the Senate in the case of the MPs taking any longer than 20 days debating it – in which case the Senate then has a maximum of 15 days – and forcing the adoption of the bill without a vote in the case of delays due to disagreements over amendments.

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