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ITF pledges support for French unions against President Macron's anti-democratic push to raise the retirement age

news 17 Mar 2023

The struggle of the French people concerning pension reform in France has now entered a new phase. Yesterday, 16 March 2023, President Emmanuel Macron moved to force through his new law without a vote in the French Parliament.

The President resorted to using the anti-democratic special constitutional powers (contained in article 49.3 of the French Constitution) to push forward with his government’s plan to raise the retirement age of French citizens from 62 to 64. These powers were established by President De Gaulle at the outset of the Fifth Republic with the express purpose of constraining the will of the people in moments of so-called crisis such as this.

Macron’s decision to invoke this controversial constitutional tool is in direct response to the powerful, united and emboldened labour and social movements in France. Our movements have mobilised to win a public majority in opposition to the pension reform, such that the government would have been defeated in a legitimate parliamentary vote if one had been allowed to take place.

The French government has failed – and this failure only underlines the denial of democracy that has characterised the entire process of pension reform to date. Throughout the examination of the draft legislation, the government has chosen to force its way through accelerated procedures, refusing to vote on amendments, pressuring parliamentarians and making concessions to the Right, all in an attempt to impose a deeply unpopular policy.

Because of the President’s undemocratic seizure of legislative authority, a motion of censure will be tabled in the French Parliament. If this motion is carried, the bill will be withdrawn, and the government will be impeached.

This reform is unjust, unjustified and unjustifiable. Millions of French people have forcefully affirmed their opposition through weeks of demonstrations and strikes. These mass mobilisations are supported by a very large majority of the population and almost all workers.

The only response of the government and employers is repression, including requisitions, police interventions on workplace occupations, arrests, intimidation, and questioning the fundamental right to strike.

The French trade unions are unanimous in their opposition to this reform and call for the continued mobilisation of the French people against the government.

In view of this unprecedented event, the Francophone unions meeting in Johannesburg for the ITF Railway Conference on 17-18 March call on ITF affiliates worldwide to express their solidarity, and be ready to escalate if the government continues on this autocratic and anti-democratic path.

We call on all ITF-affiliated unions to support the withdrawal of this reform and the restoration of genuine democratic government in France.

Finally, we quote Nelson Mandela: “A winner is a dreamer who never gives in.”