Mid-April date for Constitutional Council verdict on pension reform

MAR 29, 2023 LISTEN

France's legislative watchdog, the Constitutional Council, announced on Wednesday that it will render its verdict on 14 April on controversial pension reform legislation, which has led to often violent demonstrations since the beginning of the year.

A final version of the bill was approved on 20 March in the Senate.

On 21 March Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne asked the Constitutional Council to examine the legislation which, notably, raises the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 years old.

The Council has the power to strike out some or even all of the legislation if deemed out of step with the constitution.

The council's members -- known as "les sages" ("the wise ones") -- will give two decisions when the ruling is made public on the legislation on 14 April.

The first will be on whether the legislation is in line with the French constitution.

And the second will be on whether a demand launched by the left for a referendum (RIP) on the changes is admissible.

If a referendum was ruled admissible, backers would need to get the signatures of a tenth of the electorate -- almost five million people -- for it to be called.

Meeting with unions

Meanwhile, Borne has said she will meet with trade unions at the beginning of next week, but has ruled out the possibility of a delay before applying the reform.

The Minister for Relations with Parliament, Franck Riester, warned on Wednesday that the retirement age would not be on the agenda, but the unions intend to broach the subject.

Like Laurent Berger (CFDT), the head of the CFTC, Cyril Chabanier, confirmed that he would attend "only to talk about retirement".

The CGT union has not yet confirmed the presence of its new leader, due to be elected at a union congress this Friday.

Union leaders across the board have called for an 11th day of action against the reform on Thursday 6 April.

On Tuesday, the Interior Ministry recorded 740,000 demonstrators throughout France, including 93,000 in Paris, while the CGT union estimated "more than 2 million" including 450,000 in the capital, slightly fewer than on previous strike days.

There were 78 arrests in Paris, with 76 people still in police custody, according to public media FranceInfo.

Clashes between police and protesters erupted in a movement that has been marked by increasing violence since the government used the constitution's Article 49.3 to bypass a parliamentary vote and pass the legislation.

Police have been criticised for the heavy-handed tactics allegedly used during recent demonstrations.

Human rights groups and lawyers accuse them of making use of arbitrary arrest in an effort to stifle the protest movement.