PARIS (AFP) – France’s President Emmanuel Macron faces more nationwide protests yesterday as he seeks to steer the country on from a divisive pension law that has sparked anger, pan-bashing and social unrest.
Last month he signed a law to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, despite months of strikes against the bill.
He and his government have since tried to turn the page on the episode of popular discontent, one of the biggest challenges to his second mandate.
But protesters have booed and banged pots and pans at him on his forays into provincial France to meet members of the public. When Macron attended a football match on Saturday, he was met with activists waving red cards.
Unions and the opposition are hoping for a mass turnout at the May Day rallies to let Macron know they continue to oppose the pension overhaul.
“I invite all French men and women… to go out and catch the sun, to tan while pushing their baby strollers in the streets of Paris and the rest of the country,” a member of parliament for the hard-left France Unbowed party Francois Ruffin, said on Sunday.
“We are making sure 2023 goes down in the country’s social history,” he told broadcaster BFMTV ahead of the public holiday.
Yesterday marked the first time since 2009 that all eight of France’s main unions have joined in calling for protests.
“This worker’s holiday will take place amid union unity and that alone is historic,” said Secretary General of the Force Ouvriere (Worker’s Force) union Frederic Souillot.
Almost three in four French people were unhappy with Macron, a survey by the IFOP polling group found last month.
France has been rocked by a dozen days of nationwide strikes and protests against Macron and his pension changes since mid-January, some of which have turned violent.
But momentum has waned at recent strikes and demonstrations held during the working week, as workers appear unwilling to continue to sacrifice pay. Protests in recent weeks have taken on a more humorous tone. Demonstrators clanged kitchenware to drown out Macron during a speech to the nation after approving the pension law last month, and activists have kept up the practice on some of his visits around the country.
Near the Stade de France stadium outside Paris on Saturday, union activists distributed red cards and whistles to football fans coming to watch the final of the French Cup. “A red card for retirement at 64,” they read, ahead of the game in which Toulouse beat Nantes.
But security staff confiscated most whistles as supporters entered the stadium, and not a lot of protest was heard at the planned action time of 49 minutes and 30 seconds into the match.