Pension reform: first round in the Assembly, battle for amendments in sight

MEPs start retirement game: article-by-article examination of the sweeping reform begins Monday afternoon in committee at the National Assembly, with a flurry of opposition amendments.

Some 22 000 amendments – a record under this legislature – have been tabled on this disputed project aimed at creating a “universal system” of point retirement. Enough to seize the work of the special committee of 71 deputies, which risks failing to complete the examination of 65 articles of the ordinary bill and the five of the organic bill, before their arrival in the hemicycle on 17 February. The 17 rebellious, who assume “obstruction” according to their leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, have alone filed about 19 000.

“It is legislative ZADism”, warns co-rapporteur Olivier Véran. This turns to “absurdity”, according to the Minister of Relations with Parliament Marc Fesneau, who points to LFI amendments deleting each paragraph, including minimum pension or arduousness.

“The leftmost reform of the quinquennium”

While the French contesting the reform have been pounding since December 5, the majority is well aware that the opposition will not give them “any gift”, like Prime Minister Édouard Philippe who is “not afraid” of the promised “ember field”. Although many of their permanent staff have been targeted, the “walkers” say they are “proud” to carry this reform, Emmanuel Macron's campaign commitment. Some are linked to reformist unions. For the president of the Assembly Richard Ferrand (LREM, ex-PS), it is “the most left reform of the quinquennium”.

A “walker” recognizes this: “we will also be assessed on our ability to keep our nerves” and “we will have to manage fatigue”. First in the special commission chaired by Brigitte Bourguignon (LREM), where Secretary of State Laurent Pietraszewski and Minister Agnès Buzyn are to succeed one another from the beginning of the afternoon on Monday.

“A 49 – 3 of deterrence”

Next will come the 'examination in mid-February session, where the tension may reach its climax. Oppositions should multiply the amendments and resort to all procedural tricks. President of the MoDem group, Patrick Mignola suggests brandishing a “49 – 3 of deterrence”, a weapon of the Constitution allowing the debates to be shortened and the text adopted without vote.

But Minister Marc Fesneau, also from MoDem, does not want “coercion”. And the president of the Senate Gérard Larcher (LR) advises the government on 49 – 3: “It always ends badly”.

In addition to the substance of the reform, the oppositions criticize the form: a text “with holes” with in particular its 29 programmed orders and a “Contempt” of Parliament. They are based on the advice of the Council of State which pointed to “incomplete” financial projections. The three left groups – PS, PCF and LFI – are ready to draw all the tools, including a joint motion of censure against the government in mid-February or, as the wish the socialists, at the end of the debates in principle at the end of February.

“If things do not move in Parliament”, the number one of the PS Olivier Faure hopes that during the municipal elections of March the French will express “their fed-up and that the government will be forced to let go

New demonstrations on Thursday

On the other side of the hemicycle, no obstruction but a thousand amendments LR for the commission. “Our strategy is to embody a third way between the government and those in the block,” said group boss Damien Abad. RN deputies led by Marine Le Pen have dozens of amendments to delete articles and could join the censure motion, which is debated on the left.

The final adoption of the reform is scheduled before the summer.

The social partners will continue until April the work of the conference responsible for bringing the pension system back to financial equilibrium here 2027. Meanwhile, the street battle will continue: Thursday are announced new interprofessional events to demand the withdrawal of the project.

The secretary general of the CGT Philippe Martinez argued on Sunday to LCI that “this movement is well rooted, it is broad so there is still time (for the government) to say” we stop everything, we resumes from zero “”.

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