France faced a seventh day of demonstrations on Saturday against President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension reform plans, amid ongoing strikes that have hit refineries, public transport and garbage collection.
A coalition of French trade unions, which has maintained a rare show of unity since the protest movement was launched in late January, hopes to keep pushing the government to withdraw the reform, the key measure of which is a two-year extension of the retirement age to 64.
According to Interior Ministry figures, up to 1 million people are expected to take part in more than 200 marches across the country as the Senate continues to review the reform, with a possible vote on the text in the upper house of parliament scheduled for Sunday night.
The demonstrations began at 10 am (0900 GMT) on the streets of major cities, including Toulouse and Nice. A march in Paris is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
On Tuesday, 1.28 million people took to the streets in demonstrations, the highest turnout since the start of the protest movement, according to government figures. Unions estimated the total at 3.5 million people.
Opinion polls show that a majority of voters oppose Macron’s plan, while a small majority support strike actions.
A spokesman for TotalEnergies told Reuters strikes were continuing at the oil major’s French refineries and depots, while public rail operator SNCF said national and regional services would remain heavily disrupted over the weekend.
In Paris, garbage continues to pile up on the streets and residents cite a growing presence of rats, according to local media.
The right-leaning Senate, aligned with Macron’s centrist Renaissance party, should vote in favor of pension reform but, in that case, the bill will be reviewed by a joint committee of lawmakers from the upper and lower houses, likely next week.
If the committee agrees on a text, a final vote is likely to take place in both chambers but, in the lower house of parliament, where Macron’s party majority is relative, the outcome of such a vote still seems uncertain.
“A lot can still happen next week,” Marylise Leon, assistant general secretary of the CFDT union, the country’s largest, told Franceinfo radio. “Will the text be voted on in the National Assembly? We have to mobilize. It’s now or never.”
There is an additional day of strikes and protests planned across the country for March 15.