Macron signs contested French pension bill into law

Bicycles burn during a protest outside the Paris City Hall, April 14, 2023 in Paris. France's Constitutional Council on Friday approved an unpopular plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. (PHOTO / AP)

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron has signed into law a bill to raise the state pension age that sparked mass protests, the government's official journal showed on Saturday.

The proclamation of the law came after France's Constitutional Council on Friday approved the main pension-age increase and follows months of demonstrations against the plan, which the government forced through parliament without a final vote.

The legislation, which will progressively push up the age for drawing a state pension to 64 from 62, is deeply unpopular and protests immediately broke out when the Constitutional Council's decision was announced.

READ MORE: Violence hits France in day of anger over Macron's pension bill

Crowds marched through Paris on Friday evening, with some burning trash bins, while in the northwestern city of Rennes the entrance to a police station was set on fire.

All the labor unions are calling on the President of the Republic to show some wisdom, listen and understand what is happening in the country and not to promulgate this law.

Sophie Binet, Leader, CGT union

Trade unions on Friday called on the government not to enact the legislation, despite the green light from the Constitutional Council, and urged workers to turn out in force for marches on Labour Day on May 1.

They rejected an invitation by Macron to meet on Tuesday.

The president has staked his reputation as a reformer on the pension changes, which he says are needed to avoid billions of euros of deficit each year by the end of the decade.

"Never give up, that's my motto," he said on Friday before the Constitutional Council verdict, as he visited Notre-Dame on the anniversary of a fire that gutted the celebrated Paris cathedral.

The government plans to apply the new legislation from Sept 1.

Francois Ruffin, a lawmaker from the left-wing LFI party, on Twitter accused the government of proclaiming the pension law "like thieves in the night".

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Opposition parties have tabled another bid for a citizens' referendum on the reform after the Constitutional Council on Friday rejected a first such proposal.

Protesters gather in Lille, northern France, April 14, 2023, after France's Constitutional Council approved an unpopular plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. (PHOTO / AP)

The pension system is a cornerstone of France's cherished social protection model and trade unions say extra funding can be found elsewhere, including by taxing the rich more heavily.

Public hostility to the reform has increased since the government, which does not have a majority in parliament, pushed through the bill in March without a final vote using special constitutional powers.