The French Senate voted in favor of the controversial pension reform overnight, paving the way for a potential final adoption of the law on Thursday, as thousands of people continue to demonstrate across the country.
The widespread opposition to the retirement overhaul is a political test to French President Emmanuel Macron, whose liberal party has been struggling to pass the reform ever since it lost its majority in parliament last summer.
“A decisive step to bring about a reform that will ensure the future of our pensions. Totally committed to allow a final adoption in the next few days,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted after the vote.
The French government wants to change the retirement age from 62 to 64, with a full pension requiring 43 years of work as of 2027. The right-leaning Senate adopted the reform with 195 in favor and 112 against the measure.
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated across France on Saturday, and protests were expected to continue on Sunday. So far, strikes have disrupted sectors including public transport, oil refineries, schools and airports.
On Sunday, Laurent Berger — who heads the largest French labor union — said: “I call on parliamentarians to see what’s happening in their districts. … You can’t vote for a reform that’s rejected by so many in the workforce.”
During the presidential campaign, Macron vowed to reform the French pension system to bring it in line with other European countries like Spain and Germany, where the retirement age is 65 to 67 years old.
Official forecasts show that the French pensions system is financially in balance for now, but it’s expected to build up a deficit in the longer term.
French labor unions are calling for a “powerful day of strikes and demonstrations” on Wednesday, when lawmakers from the Senate and National Assembly are set to hold a small-group meeting to find a compromise on the pensions revamp. If they do reach an agreement, the law could be adopted on Thursday.
The government could also ultimately decide to adopt the revamp using an exceptional procedure that requires no parliamentary vote.