The leader of France's largest union called on French President Emmanuel Macron to put "on hold" the pushing back of the average retirement age on Tuesday (March 28), hours before a new round of country-wide demonstrations and strikes, Reuters reports.
Millions of people have been demonstrating, largely peacefully, and joining strike action since mid-January to vent their opposition to Macron's plans to make most of them work an extra two years to 64.
But public frustration has evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment.
"There are millions of people who are opposed to this pension reform and who are demonstrating. If we want to avoid clashes, and I want to avoid them, what the unions are proposing now is a gesture of appeasement to find a way out," said head of the CFDT union Laurent Berger, on France Inter radio.
The protests have intensified since the government used special constitutional powers to bypass parliament on a final vote on the pensions bill almost two weeks ago, bringing scenes of chaos reminiscent of unrest by supporters of the yellow-vest movement during Macron's first term as president.
Berger said attempts to get talks going between union leaders and the government had failed and Macron had to "hit pause" on raising the retirement age.
He suggested appointing mediators to help the dialogue between the government and unions over the next few months.
French police are on the lookout for more protesters bent on violence joining marches against planned pension reform, the chief of police in Paris, Laurent Nunez, said on Tuesday.
Nunez told France Inter radio that security agencies believed more people intent on violence could join the protests and police had to be ready.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Monday (March 27) said authorities have recently noticed a trend towards more violence directed against the state and were anticipating a "very serious risk to public order" at Tuesday's rallies.
A total of 13,000 police agents will be deployed during the protests throughout the day, more than ever before, Darmanin said.