French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday gave himself 100 days to heal the country after weeks of protests and anger at his unpopular plans to raise the retirement age, asking his government to open talks with unions on a wide range of issues.
In a televised speech two days after signing into law plans to increase the retirement age by two years to 64, Macron said he wanted his prime minister to propose measures on working conditions, law and order, education and health issues.
On July 14, we must be able to take stock,” Macron said, referring to Bastille Day, France’s national day, often a milestone in French politics.
Macron has staked his reputation as a reformer on the pension changes, which he said were needed to avoid billions of euros of deficit each year by the end of the decade.
As Macron started his speech, demonstrators banged pots and pans in front of town halls across the country and small groups of protesters set garbage bins on fire in Paris.
Macron gave few details about the roadmap he wanted the government to work on but said it should improve working conditions and also tighten immigration laws.
Speaking immediately after Macron’s speech, the head of France’s largest union, the CFDT’s Laurent Berger, said Macron’s speech had been totally empty and failed to address the anger in the country.
He said unions would be ready to talk with the government only after Labour Day on May 1, following what he called a period of “decency” to let workers’ anger calm.