Published: 2023-03-11 22:47
Last Updated: 2023-03-28 17:57
Demonstrators in France took to the streets Saturday for a seventh day of protest against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform plans, with police expecting up to a million people at rallies nationwide.
Unions hope they can still force Macron to back down as parliament debates the draft law, with the National Assembly and the Senate moving towards a final vote as early as this month.
"This is the final stretch," said Marylise Leon, deputy leader of the CFDT union.
"The endgame is now," she told the franceinfo broadcaster Saturday.
This week, Macron twice turned down urgent calls by unions to meet with him in a last-ditch attempt to get him to change his mind.
The snub made unions "very angry", said Philippe Martinez, boss of the hard-left CGT union.
"When there are millions of people in the streets, when there are strikes and all we get from the other side is silence, people wonder: What more do we need to do to be heard?", he said, calling for a referendum on the pensions reform.
"Since the president is so sure of himself, he might want to consult the people. We'll see what the response will be," he said.
"This country's leaders need to stop being in denial of this social movement," said CFDT head Laurent Berger.
Police said they expect between 800,000 and one million people at 230 planned demonstrations across France, of which up to 100,000 were likely to march in Paris where the main demonstration set off at two pm.
It was the second protest day called on a weekend, with unions hoping demonstrators would show up in greater numbers if they did not have to take a day off work.
But counts around midday suggested the turnout could fall short of the 963,000 that protested, according to police, on Saturday, Feb. 11.