1 of 4 | People attend a rally in Marseille, France, on March 23 against the government's forcing an increase in the retirement age to 64 without a vote in the National Assembly. Strikes and protests will continue in France Thursday after labor union talks with Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne failed Wednesday. Photo by Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA-EFE
April 6 (UPI) -- French strikes against a hike in the retirement age will continue Thursday following failed union talks with the prime minister. Hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the change be withdrawn are expected in major French cities.
The strikes were triggered by President Emmanuel Macron's imposition of an older retirement age without holding a vote on it in the National Assembly. Unions called for the strikes to continue after a meeting with the French prime minister to reverse the retirement age increase failed.
Labor union leaders met with Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne Wednesday to push for Macron's government to abandon raising the retirement age to qualify for pensions from 62 to 64. But it was over in less than an hour.
"We again told the prime minister that the only democratic outcome would be the text's withdrawal," Cyril Chabanier, spokesperson for a federation of eight unions, said. "The prime minister replied that she wished to maintain the text, a serious decision."
Massive strikes, protests and demonstrations have disrupted France for weeks after Macron forced the retirement age hike through without a vote in the National Assembly.
Forcing people to work two more full years before being eligible for retirement pensions is unpopular in France, with the majority of the population and labor unions opposing the change.
After pressing for the retirement change to be reversed, trade union leaders meeting with Borne walked out of the meeting in less than an hour, urging strikes and protests to continue.
A federation of eight trade unions issued a joint statement that said that the pension and retirement changes are opposed by almost the entire population of France and must be withdrawn.
The union statement said millions of workers mobilized for nearly three months oppose raising the retirement age, especially without a vote in the National Assembly.
The unions said this social crisis in France is now a democratic crisis.
In remarks right after meeting with the union leaders, Borne said she told them requiring workers to work two more years before getting pensions is needed and she indicated she plans to move forward without the unions.
The strikes will be rolling strikes that will impact public transport, schools, oil refineries and hospitals. The actions are expected in all major French cities.
France's Constitutional Council will decide by April 14 whether raising the pension age without a National Assembly vote is constitutional.