Massive strike in France against a notorious pension reform

Massive strike in France against a notorious pension reform

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marching across the country, heavily disrupted traffic on the rail network and in Paris, closed schools: France is threatened with a massive day of strikes against the pension reform project on Thursday, a political test for President Emmanuel Macron in a tense economic and social context.

• Also read: The French government is proposing to raise the statutory retirement age to 64 by 2030

The project and its flagship measure, pushing the retirement age to 64 instead of the current 62, are met with a united front of the trade unions and widespread opposition in public opinion, according to polls.

The unions already celebrated a “successful” mobilization on Thursday afternoon.

Massive strike in France against a notorious pension reform

“Emmanuel Macron, he wants us to die on the ground, work until the age of 64,” starts AFP Hamidou, 43, a garbage collector from the city of Paris, met at the demonstration. “We get up very early. There are some of my colleagues who get up at 3am. To be honest, working until the age of 64 is too much, start it.

Next, a young woman holds up a sign: “Retire before osteoarthritis”. Other signs announce “Metro, Job, Tomb” or “Metro, Job, Vault”.

Protesters banged the pavement in many French cities on Thursday morning before the Parisian procession set out around 13:15 GMT to say “no” to lowering the statutory retirement age. Projectiles were thrown and tear gas was used in clashes between police and protesters around the Place de la Bastille in Paris on Thursday afternoon, an AFP journalist noted.

Massive strike in France against a notorious pension reform

The first figures reported by the authorities show a strong mobilization: at least 36,000 people demonstrated in Toulouse (south-west), 26,000 in Marseille (south-east), 25,000 in Nantes (west), 19,000 in Clermont-Ferrand (centre). , 15,000 in Montpellier (southeast), 14,000 in Tours (centre), 13,600 in Pau (southwest), 12,000 in Perpignan (south)…

About 400,000 people demonstrated in Paris, the CGT union told AFP, while the number was not immediately available to the authorities.

The mobilization “goes beyond what we thought,” hailed CFDT union number one Laurent Berger at the start of the Paris demonstration.

Massive strike in France against a notorious pension reform

In Marseille (south), Jérôme Thevenin, a 52-year-old chef with a “shortened” career, worked for a long time as a seasonal worker. “I don’t even dare to calculate when I can leave. But I see retirement approaching and I’m more concerned,” he said, hoping the mobilization “will get government thinking.”

In anticipation of a “Galley Thursday”, the Minister for Transport, Clément Beaune, had called for postponing travel or teleworking, a practice that has become widespread in France since the containment of COVID in 2020.

The representatives of the public electricity company EDF have reduced electricity production to at least double Paris consumption.

As for the refineries, CGT TotalEnergies had between 70 and 100% strikers at most of the group’s sites.

The strike was very popular in local transport with almost no regional trains, few high-speed trains (TGV), a slow-moving metro in Paris and a very underserved major suburb.

Massive strike in France against a notorious pension reform

The port of Calais, the first in France for travelers, saw no traffic due to a strike by port officials.

Many public services are the subject of strike calls, particularly in education, where the largest union, the FSU, accounts for 70% of the striking teachers in schools and 65% in colleges and high schools.

Emmanuel Macron, whose pension reform is a crucial project of the second five-year term to which he committed himself during the election campaign for his first term, plays big: His party, which does not have a majority in the National Assembly, could be weakened if the movement would be deep and sustained.

This political test for the President staying out of the fray and sending Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to the front lines is taking place in a tense economic and social context.

The French are suffering from high inflation, averaging 5.2% in 2022 in a country rocked by “yellow vest” demonstrations against high prices during Emmanuel Macron’s first term in office.

France is one of the European countries with the lowest statutory retirement age, although pension systems are not fully comparable.

The government has decided to increase working hours in response to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population. He defends his project by presenting it as a “carrier of social progress”, particularly through the valorization of small pensions.