French PM warns retirement reform may be forced through parliament without vote


French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne says a decision will be taken later this week on the parliamentary method to be used to advance contested government plans to reform retirement and pension legislation.

Borne does not exclude the use of the constitutional clause known as 49.3, which allows the adoption of legislation without a vote in the National Assembly.

What is certain is that the reform will be discussed at Monday's cabinet meeting.

The government knows that the parliamentary debate on the divisive changes will be difficult.

Among the options available to the ruling party, which does not have an overall majority in the National Assembly, are an amendment of a social security bill already drafted, the Social Security Finance Bill. Or the government may decide to introduce a specific law.

Starting from scratch with a completely new bill would further delay the presentation of the proposals to parliament until the first half of 2023. Altering the existing draft would bring the debate forward to sometime this autumn.

Elisabeth Borne has promised a decision before the end of the week.

Dialogue, debate, but no blockage

François Bayrou, a centrist ally of President Emmanuel Macron, has cautioned against any attempt to impose the legislation by force.

Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, in contrast, has urged a rapid adoption of the law, by "whatever method will work".

The political opposition and trade union groups are broadly united in their determination to resist any attempt at an acceleration of the process, even though most agree that fundamental reform of pensions and retirement is necessary.

"There is a real risk of social disintegration," warns Laurent Berger, leader of the CFDT trade union. He has promised an autumn of strikes and upheaval if the government goes too far, too fast.

The prime minister has promised that she will continue to seek concensus and compromise with the political and social partners.

"I believe in dialogue," she says. "But the French people are not going to understand if we let the legislative process be blocked."