May 24. 2024. 5:14

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Macron tries to reconnect with unions, attacks Mélenchon

President Emmanuel Macron asked Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s government to ‘continue to reach out’ to unions despite their continued opposition to pension reform as he reportedly expects massive crowds to gather for a 10th day of nationwide strikes on Tuesday.

During a meeting with the leaders of the presidential majority on Monday, the president affirmed his willingness to ease tensions in the country and expects the tenth union-organised protest to be massive, according to leaks in the press.

Macron asked Borne, some senior ministers, leaders of the parliamentary groups and the political parties that make up the presidential majority to “work with the social partners, to calm down, to continue to implement reforms and to repair public services”, participants told the press.

The French leader also asked political leaders who support him to “continue to reach out to the trade unions” and criticised Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise for “trying to delegitimise” the country’s institutions.

Determined to see the process through to the end, Macron wants the pension reform bill in force by the end of the year.

Among trade unionists, the leader of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, declared that he would not accept the “outstretched hand” of the head of state as long as the reform is not shelved.

According to some constitutional experts, the Constitutional Council is highly likely to dismiss some parts of the bill and could even do so for the entire text when it decides on the bill in the coming weeks.

“The debates were rushed using tools […], diverted from its usual use,” and they “failed to respect the constitutional principle of ‘clarity and sincerity’”, constitutionalist Dominique Rousseau told Le Monde in an interview on Monday.

“The National Assembly did not vote on the text,” but on a no-confidence motion due to the activation of Article 49.3 of the Constitution – which allows a text to be considered adopted in the absence of a motion of censure by the Assembly, Rousseau added.

While the court’s decision is still pending, unions are looking to continue strikes nationwide.

On Tuesday, “650,000 to 900,000 people will march everywhere in France on Tuesday, including 70,000 to 100,000 people in Paris”, according to a note from the territorial intelligence service – an increase compared to the 600,000 to 800,000 estimated for the last nationwide strike on 22 March.

The number of “young people” in the streets, called by high school and university organisations, could double or even triple compared to how many were at the strike on 22 March, the note added.

But according to the Interior Ministry, expected numbers for Tuesday are 119,000 in Paris and more than one million nationwide. The CGT union claims three times as many will attend the strikes.

The Interior Ministry’s services nevertheless anticipate “very significant risks of public order disturbances”, with “more than 1,000 radical elements” likely to infiltrate marches in major cities.

At a press conference Monday evening, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that he would deploy “an unprecedented” number of staff, with over 13,000 police and gendarmes, to oversee strikes across the country, including 5,500 in Paris alone.

(Davide Basso |