France’s Constitutional Council will issue a much-awaited verdict on April 14 on whether the government’s plans to increase the retirement age are in line with constitutional rules, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
The plan by President Emmanuel Macron to delay by two years, to 64, the age at which people can draw their pension, has met fierce opposition from workers and trade unions, with another nationwide day of strike and protests set for April 6.
The council has the power to strike down the bill – or some part of it – if it considers it breaches the constitution. In practice, it rarely rejects entire bills.
Unions have asked Macron to withdraw or pause the bill – which has been adopted but not yet published, pending the review by the Constitutional Council – to calm things down.
The government has said it is willing to talk to unions, but on other topics, and has consistently said it would stand firm on the pensions issue. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has offered to meet unions next Monday and Tuesday.
Laurent Berger, the head of the CFDT union, said earlier on Wednesday that he would go to the meeting to reiterate his demand that the bill be suspended.
“Unions are not going to go to discuss something else,” he told broadcaster franceinfo. “I’ll go there to explain that this reform is a dead-end.”
Millions of people have been demonstrating and going on strike since mid-January to oppose the bill.
The protests have intensified since the government used special powers to push the bill through parliament without a vote, as public frustration evolved into a broader anti-Macron mood.
Opposition parties have asked the Council to strike down the bill on procedural grounds,after the government set a tight limit on how long MPs could debate it and eventually bypassed a final vote in parliament.
Constitutional experts say the Council might strike down measures that are meant to help older workers get a job, on the grounds that this would not belong in a pension law.
Opinion polls show a vast majority of voters oppose the pension bill and back the protests, despite violent clashes on the margins of recent demonstrations.
On the latest day of protests on Tuesday, in Paris and other cities, black-clad groups set fire to garbage cans and threw projectiles at police, who charged at them and threw teargas.
The level of violence was however nowhere near that of last week and rallies were otherwise largely peaceful.