French unions dig in after Macron defends pension reform

PARIS-France braced for more transport woes and a new day of nationwide protests on Thursday after a defiant President Emmanuel Macron pledged to implement a contentious pensions overhaul by year-end. The 45-year-old leader on Wednesday said he was prepared to accept unpopularity because the bill raising the retirement age by two years was “necessary” and “in the general interest of the country”. Acting on Macron’s instructions, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked an article in the constitution a week ago to adopt the reform without a parliamentary vote. The government on Monday narrowly survived a no-confidence motion, but the outrage has spawned the biggest domestic crisis of Macron’s second term. The centrist president was first elected in 2017 with pledges to radically reform France. Macron’s comments during a lunchtime interview on Wednesday, when most people would have been at work, have incensed union workers. 

Philippe Martinez, head of the hard-line CGT union, said that the remarks showed “disdain for the thousands of people who have been protesting”.

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