PARIS (Reuters) -Strikes blocking fuel deliveries from French refineries ran into a sixth day on Monday, piling further pressure on President Emmanuel Macron as he races to shore up support for unpopular pension reforms in a final parliamentary vote.
As well as France’s main refineries being blocked, railway transport is being disrupted and garbage is piling up on the streets of Paris and other French cities as a result of rolling strikes launched last week in other sectors of the economy.
To avoid further fuelling anger among the French population, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the pension reform, Macron’s government hopes to avoid resorting to a procedure, known as 49:3, which would allow it to push a text through parliament without a vote.
Although the French Senate on Saturday approved the bill, whose key measure is raising the retirement age by two years to 64, it still faces parliamentary hurdles before it can become law, especially in the National Assembly, where Macron’s supporters do not have an outright majority.
The next step, scheduled for Wednesday, is the convening of a joint committee of lower and upper house lawmakers, seven apiece, to agree on a definitive version of the text.
The last and crucial moment would then be a final vote, Thursday, both in the Senate and in the National Assembly.
Macron’s party needs the support of Les Republicains in the National Assembly to ensure the bill is approved. But the conservative lawmakers are very divided on the issue and there are even cracks in the presidential camp, with Macron’s former Environment Minister Barbara Pompili opposing it.
“Some MPs are still hesitating, we must able to have a talk with them,” government spokesperson Olivier Veran told LCI television, adding that all the conditions were met “so that we don’t lack any votes”.
Veran also echoed Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who has said she preferred a vote rather than using the 49:3 procedure, which refers to the related article in the French constitution.
Laurent Berger, secretary general of France’s largest union the CFDT, said on Sunday resorting to that procedure would represent a “democratic flaw” and lead to a “great degree of bitterness” among the population.
Despite a lower turnout than expected for demonstrations on Saturday, French unions called for a new day of action Wednesday, hoping to keep up pressure on the government until the end of the parliamentary process.
Meanwhile, at the TotalEnergies Haulchin petrol depot in northern France a few hundred union supporters joined a picket line and burned tyres, stopping a number of trucks from entering or leaving, a Reuters witness said.
Police then arrived and cleared the blockade.
(Reporting by Forrest Crellin, Pascal Rossignol and Blandine Hénault, Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Louise Heavens, Kirsten Donovan and Alexander Smith)
PHOTO: Uncollected rubbish piles up in Paris Reuters