French President Emmanuel Macron faces further nationwide protests on Monday as he seeks to extricate the country from a divisive pensions law that has sparked anger, pan-bashing and social unrest.
Last month he signed legislation 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 of his second term.
But protesters booed him and beat him with pots and pans during his forays into provincial France to meet members of the public.
When Macron attended a football match on Saturday, he was greeted by activists waving red cards.
Unions and the opposition are hoping for massive turnout at May Day rallies to let Macron know they continue to oppose the pension overhaul.
“I invite all French people, men and women… to go out to sunbathe, to tan while pushing their stroller in the streets of Paris and the rest of the country”, declared François Ruffin, deputy of France of extreme LEFT. Party rebellious, said Sunday.
“We are ensuring that 2023 remains in the social history of the country,” he told BFMTV channel before the holiday.
Monday will mark the first time since 2009 that France’s eight main unions have joined the call to demonstrate.
“This workers’ day will take place in union unity and that alone is historic,” said Frédéric Souillot, general secretary of the Force Ouvrière union.
“Red card” for Macron
Nearly three in four French people were unhappy with Macron, according to 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 in recent strikes and protests during the working week, with workers appearing unwilling to continue sacrificing wages.
Protests in recent weeks have taken on a more humorous tone.
Protesters banged kitchen utensils to drown out Macron during an address to the nation after approving the pensions law last month, and activists have maintained the practice during some of his visits across the country.
On the outskirts of the Stade de France, near Paris, on Saturday, union activists handed out red cards and whistles to football fans who came to watch the Coupe de France final.
“A red card for an abandonment at 64”, they read, before the match where Toulouse beat Nantes.
But security personnel confiscated most of the whistles as fans entered the stadium, and few protests were heard when the action was scheduled to take place 49 minutes and 30 seconds into the match.
The moment referred to the controversial Article 49.3 of the constitution, which Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne invoked in March to push pension reform through parliament without a vote in the lower house.
Macron won a second five-year term last year but lost his parliamentary majority in June elections.
Borne last week pledged to reduce unemployment and green the industry as it seeks to move on to other state affairs.
She also postponed any discussion of a controversial immigration bill until the fall due to a lack of a parliamentary majority, saying she believed now was not the time for another divisive debate.
Early last month, unions walked out of talks with Borne after she refused to budge on the flagship pension reform measure of raising the retirement age.
But CFDT union leader Laurent Berger said on Sunday that this did not mean the end of all talks between unions and the government, even after the reform was enacted.
If invited, “the CFDT…will go and talk like a union in a company does with a boss – even shortly after that boss has done them a dirty trick”, he said.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)