HomeNewsMacron's decision to bypass Parliament ignites fear of 'social explosion'

    Macron’s decision to bypass Parliament ignites fear of ‘social explosion’

    Union leaders Laurent Escure (UNSA), Frédéric Souillot (FO), Cyril Chabanier (CFTC), Benoît Teste (FSU), François Hommeril (CFE-CGC), Laurent Berger (CFDT), Murielle Guilbert (Solidaires) and Philippe Martinez (CGT ), in front of the National Assembly, on March 16, 2023

    The frustration and resignation that opponents to the French pension reform started feeling recently did not last long. Just a few minutes after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used Article 49.3 of the Constitution in front of the deputies, France’s unions and students showed their determination to continue and intensify the mobilization.

    By mid-afternoon, demonstrators gathered in the middle of the Place de la Concorde – located just a stone’s throw from the Assemblée Nationale – at the call of the labor union Solidaires. They were quickly joined by students demonstrating on the Place de la Sorbonne. Other rallies spontaneously took place all over France, such as in Marseille, Grenoble, Toulouse, Lyon, Lille, Nantes or Bordeaux, highlighting, once again, the protests’ local anchoring.

    The leaders of the eight main labor unions called on the evening of Thursday, March 16, for “local union rallies” on the weekend of March 18 and 19 and for a “new big day of strikes and demonstrations” on Thursday, March 23. While the so-called “reformist” unions (CFDT, UNSA, CFTC, CFE-CGC) had announced that they would respect parliamentary democracy in the event of a favorable vote on the reform in the Assembly and Senate, the revitalized unions are instead beginning a new phase of protests.

    Read more French pension reform: A case study of what not to do in politics

    “This is a disavowal for the government,” said Laurent Berger to The world. “Resorting to Article 49.3 is a demonstration that they do not have a majority in Parliament.” For the secretary general of the moderate CFDT union, “it is a wreck from all points of view”, as public opinion remains overwhelmingly opposed to the project. “This forced passage with the use of Article 49.3 must be met with a response in line with this show of contempt toward the people,” said his counterpart of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez, to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

    ‘Triple Defeat’

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    “Article 49.3 constitutes a triple defeat for the executive: popular, political and moral,” asserted the secretary general of labor union UNSA, Laurent Escure. “It opens up a new stage for the protests.” The use of this article of the Constitution “is a blind rush forward” in the eyes of Simon Duteil – co-delegate general of Solidaires – and it “emphasizes the already present anger.” A fear expressed by all members of the unions. Article 49.3 is “the worst solution, the one that can lead to social explosion,” considers the president of the CFTC reformist labor union, Cyril Chabanier.

    The unions have been warning for weeks: After two months of well-regulated mobilization without any major outbursts, the risk of an eruption is not, according to them, impossible given the government’s inflexibility and its choice not to resort to a vote in Parliament. It only took one evening to show that their concerns are not unfounded.

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