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French govt. decides to push pension reform by decree, drawing outcry

French riot police officers stand ready as protesters wave a French national flag during a demonstration called by the CGT union after the government announced it would invoke the French constitution's Article 49.3, allowing it to bypass parliament on the contested pensions reform bill, in front of the Assemblee Nationale (National Assembly) in Paris, France, on February 29, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Several thousands took to the streets of Paris on Tuesday to protest against the French government's reform of the country's pension system.

The French government said on Saturday it would push President Emmanuel Macron's contested pension reform through parliament by decree, avoiding the need for a vote after the opposition filed more than 40,000 amendments to the draft law.

The opposition has since accused the government of trying to force the bill through and avoiding a democratic debate.

The reform, which is the single greatest overhaul of France's pension system since World War Two, prompted weeks of public sector strikes and street protests before opponents of the legislation took the battle to parliament.

Macron loyalists, who hold a majority in the National Assembly, branded the mountain of amendments a cynical ploy to stall the pension bill's passage through parliament.

Catching lawmakers off-guard during the latest parliamentary session on the reform, Philippe's announcement was met with howls of protest from members of the far-left France Unbowed Party that tabled most of the amendments.

It responded by saying it would file a motion of censure against the government, which has next to no chance of passing in parliament.

French Communist Party deputy Andre Chassaigne addresses the French National Assembly in Paris,  on March 3, 2020, during a vote of no-confidence in the government filled by several opposition parties over its decision to use a rarely used decree. (Photo by AFP)

The reform aims to merge 42 sector-specific pension regimes into a single points-based system, which Macron's government says would be more transparent while also ensuring a more sound financial footing as the population ages.

Philippe's government also wants to create incentives to make people work longer, notably by raising the age at which a person could draw a full pension to 64 while maintaining the legal retirement age at 62.

Unions and lawmakers argue that Macron's reform amounts to an attack on hard-earned benefits that help compensate for salaries below those in the private sector and will ruin public services.

(Source: Reuters)

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