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French trade unions gear up for 10th round of protests against pension reform

French trade unions are planning nationwide protests against the government’s pension reform for the 10th time on Tuesday.

Intense protests — some of them violent — have shaken the country since March 16, after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne decided to use special constitutional powers to force through the controversial plan.

Millions who were protesting this reform since January, are planning a 10th round on Tuesday — which even pushed President Emmanuel Macron to cancel UK King Charles III’s visit to France.

French intelligence expects up to 900,000 protesters, including 100,000 in Paris, on March 28, according to media reports.

Meanwhile, the General Labor Confederation’s culture branch on Monday is protesting in front of the Louvre Museum in Paris, blocking entry, broadcaster BFMTV showed.

The museum’s administration on Twitter said: “Due to public strikes, the Musée du Louvre is not able to be open this early morning.”

Violence marred protests

Violent groups last week infiltrated the parades in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon, and engaged in vandalism. They set fire to dumpsters, trash, and building gates, targeted banks and threw bottles at police, according to local media reports.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin last week said that 457 people were arrested on Thursday night across France, 441 police officers were injured, and 933 fires were set to street furniture and trash in Paris.

French Democratic Confederation of Labor trade union leader Laurent Berger on Monday on broadcaster France 2 expressed concern over violence staining the protests.

“I am also preoccupied that the social protest is being drowned in the violence of a few,” he added.

Garbage collection in Paris

The capital has known serious disruptions in garbage collection since March 6-7, due to garbage workers’ walkout.

Garbage collectors then decided to extend the strike, while tons of garbage piled up in Paris streets.

First Deputy of Paris municipality Emmanuel Gregoire on Monday told broadcaster FranceInfo that the work has been accelerated this weekend, and 7,500 tons of trash are still in Paris streets.

He added that returning to normal situation and functioning requires a couple of days.

Pension reform plan, source of popular furor

The French government used special constitutional powers on March 16 to force the plan through, prompting opposing parties to submit no-confidence motions that were later rejected.

Macron and Borne decided to invoke Article 49.3 of the Constitution, a mechanism that lets the government adopt a draft bill without parliamentary approval.

The decision was driven by fear that lawmakers would be able to block the reforms as the government does not hold an absolute majority in the legislature.

The government revealed the reform project in January and parliament started examining and debating the draft bill the following month.

Workers and trade unions have since expressed growing outrage by holding demonstrations and walkouts.

The reform project includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030, requiring at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.

Source: Anadolu Agency