PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday signed into law a deeply unpopular bill to raise the state pension age, infuriating unions that called for months of mass protests to continue.
The proclamation of the law in the government’s official journal came hours after France’s Constitutional Council had approved the main pension-age increase in a ruling on Friday.
The legislation, which will progressively push up the age for drawing a state pension to 64 from 62, is due to take effect from September 1.
The swift proclamation of the law angered trade unions that had urged the government to wait in order to defuse tensions.
“This is a totally shameful decision,” Sophie Binet, head of the CGT union, told Franceinfo radio. “He (Macron) has slammed the door in our face yet again.” Unions have called workers to turn out in force for marches on Labour Day on May 1. Binet said other actions would take place on April 20 and 28, while rail workers’ unions called for a day of “anger” on April 20.
Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt played down the timing of the promulgation, telling France Culture radio that the government wanted talks with unions on other social issues.
After the Constitutional Council’s decision was announced, 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.
Public hostility has increased since the government, which does not have a majority in parliament, pushed through the bill in March without a final vote.
Macron, whose invitation to unions for a meeting on Tuesday was rejected, will make a televised address on Monday evening, French media reported. The president’s office did not immediately confirm the address.
“Never give up, that’s my motto,” the president 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 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.
Unions say extra funding can be found elsewhere, including by taxing the rich more heavily, to preserve what is a cornerstone of France’s social protection model.
Francois Ruffin, a lawmaker from the left-wing LFI party, accused the government on Twitter of proclaiming the pension law “like thieves in the night”.
Opposition parties have tabled another bid for a citizens’ referendum on the reform after the Constitutional Council on Friday rejected a first such proposal.