Amid tensions in France, Macron promises minimum wage hike

Paris [France]: In the aftermath of the violent ‘yellow vest’ protests that rocked France lately, President Emmanuel Macron on Monday assured the people of the country that the minimum wage would be raised and new taxes on pensions would be abolished.

In a televised address to the nation, Macron condemned the anti-government demonstrations on fuel tax hikes saying that they were “unacceptable” and “will not be in any way indulged.” While he acknowledged the mounting anger of the people, he criticised the protesters for indulging in violence, where vehicles were torched and property vandalised, CNN reported.

“No anger justifies attacking a policeman or pillaging a public place or shop. When violence breaks out, freedom is lost,” Macron noted.

The yellow vest protests, which initially began as a campaign against skyrocketing fuel prices, expanded into a huge agitation over discontent on a wide variety of issues against the French government.

The protests on Saturday were the fourth in a series that culminated into the worst rioting in France for decades. Thousands of protesters were seen donning the ‘gilets jaunes’, the yellow fluorescent vests that have symbolised the movement.

The French President announced a slew of social reforms, in a bid to quell the discontent among the citizens, including a hike in minimum wage by around 100 euros (approx Rs. 8,230) a month starting from January next year and promised that overtime hours will not be taxed.

He further said that the wealth tax would not be reintroduced, while urging the people to take on tax fraud, as per the report.

Calling for unity, Macron underlined, “We are at a historical changing point in the history of our country. Through dialogue, respect and commitment, we will succeed. My concern is only you, our only battle is for France.”

Noting that the discontent came from “40 years of malaise”, Macron, however, admitted that his administration could not respond to the same in the last 18 months and would take full responsibility for that.

Prior to the address, Macron and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe held deliberations with several trade unions and business leaders.

During the last weekend’s demonstrations, a number of France’s monuments, including the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, remained closed as authorities had anticipated a repeat of previous weeks of violence and deployed over 8,000 policemen in the French capital to maintain order.

Several cultural programmes and sporting events were cancelled in view of the protests.

Macron, who said that the now-cancelled fuel price hike was necessary to tackle the threat of climate change, drew huge criticisms from the protesters, who believe that the French President was enacting policies in favour of the country’s richest section of society.