French unions hold new protests against pension laws


French unions on Thursday staged their first large-scale protests since President Emmanuel Macron stoked public anger by forcing parliament to raise the retirement age without a vote. Strikes are increasing travel and blockades are expected at ports, refineries and landfills.

Violence has increased in recent days at scattered protests against pension reform and Macron’s leadership.

Macron is staunchly fighting growing discontent on the streets of France, saying on Wednesday the pension bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 must be implemented by the end of the year.

Critics have attacked Macron for the remarks, describing him as “smug”, “out of touch” and “offensive.”

The president’s comments on Wednesday were his first since the government forced parliament to pass the pension bill last week because of a lack of support. The government then passed two votes of no confidence in the lower house of parliament on Monday.

The bill must now be considered by the French Constitutional Council before becoming law.

The 45-year-old moderate president, in his second and final term, has repeatedly said he believes the French pension system needs to be revised to stay financially viable. Opponents suggest other solutions including higher taxes on the wealthy or on companies, which Macron says would hurt the economy.

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