The French Senate passed the pension law despite street protests

PARIS — A controversial bill that would raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64 gained momentum as the measure passed the Senate, amid strikes, protests and daily piles of uncollected trash.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted late Saturday after the 195-112 vote that she looked forward to the final passage of the bill and welcomed the “decisive step towards a reform that secures the future of our pension system.”

However, the legislature must now navigate tricky political territory with several possible consequences.

It will first go to a committee of seven senators and seven lower house lawmakers to find a compromise between the two House versions of the text on Wednesday – as unions plan an eighth round of nationwide protests.

President Emmanuel Macron is undeterred by uncollected garbage piling up in Paris and other cities due to strikes by garbage workers opposing the bill, and cuts to services and supplies in other sectors such as transport and energy.

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Macron rejected the unions’ invitation to meet with him, which Philippe Martinez, head of the left-wing CGT union, said was “finger-slapping”.

There was no government response to a union call for a “civic consultation” on the law, after another day of demonstrations on Saturday that drew far fewer people to the streets than four days earlier.

After their vote, a day before the deadline, Senate President Gerard Larcher expressed his pride in the work of his colleagues, saying the conservative-right-led body “only has one goal, whatever our feelings, the country and the French people interest.”

Unions maintain that the French are voting against the reform in the streets and through strikes, but they have also declined in some sectors.

The government hopes to avoid using a special constitutional power to push the bill through parliament without a vote. Parliamentary approval would greatly legitimize the pension system.

But there are several scenarios before the reform can become law, making its path uncertain.

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If the joint committee reaches an agreement on Wednesday, the pension reform plan will receive a final vote the next day in the Senate and the National Assembly, the lower house.

Without an agreement, the bill would likely return to the National Assembly for further debate and a final vote, then likely return to the Senate. Borne, the prime minister, was optimistic that the measure would be “definitively adopted in the coming days.” ___

Masha Macpherson and Sylvie Corbet contributed to this report.