1.28 million French gather in the streets to strike against pension reform
Published 3/8/2023 6:07 PM | Edited 03/08/2023 20:11
More than 250 protests have been held in the French capital, Paris, and across the country against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, since Tuesday (7), for the sixth day. There was participation of garbage collectors, public service workers, train drivers, including refineries, energy and transport, where the strike is renewed, paralyzing the country against the legislation under discussion in the Senate. The disturbances promise to be even greater, this Thursday (9), with a stoppage of transport, including at airports.
Across France, the International Day for Women’s Rights was also under the banner of pensions and the pay gap between women and men. Thousands of women demonstrated in support of the strikes in 150 locations. Retired women earn on average 28% less than men in France.
An estimated 1.28 million people demonstrated across the country on Tuesday against Macron’s plans to lower the retirement age to 64, the interior ministry said. The protests come weeks after an estimated 1.27 million people took part in the Jan. 31 round of protests.
The majority of French people currently support the principle of extendable strikes (56%) and the trade union objective of “paralyzing France” (59%) to force the government to back down, according to an Elabe poll published this Monday ( 6).
Large crowds took to the streets in Paris, Marseille, Nice and other cities. Some minor clashes with the police took place in Nantes, Rennes and Lyon. In the French capital, workers, families and activists gathered in an atmosphere of joy, chanting slogans.
Sporadic instances of clashes took place, with some people throwing projectiles at the police, who responded with tear gas.
deadlock in the legislature
The reform aims to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work by 2030 to receive a full pension, among other measures. The government has argued that the system is likely to plunge into deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy rises.
Unions say small increases in dues can keep you solvent. They say the proposed measures are unfair and would disproportionately affect low-skilled workers in unhealthy jobs who start their careers early.
Marine Le Pen’s far-right party is trying to capitalize on the anti-government climate, declaring support for the movement and its proposals, as well as expressing concern over the effects of the strikes. The extreme right ignores that Macron was only elected because it was necessary to defeat Le Pen’s group. The divided left failed to reach the second round.
The bill is under debate in the French Senate this week. Senators must decide this evening on Article 7, the most symbolic of the reform, which provides for the postponement of the retirement age from 62 to 64 years. Debates at the Luxembourg Palace soured overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, with a parliamentary procedure war between the right-wing and center majority, favorable to the text, and the opposition from the left-wing benches. There are still dozens of amendments to go before the vote on Article 7. It is worth remembering that the deputies had not reached the point of examining this article, due to the impasse in the debates and the strategy of obstruction adopted by the elected “rebels”.
While union representatives have been asking, since Tuesday night, to be received directly by Emmanuel Macron, due to the strength of the social protest, Elisabeth Borne and the government, for the time being, are opposed. “If the unions want to raise some specific points, the door of the Minister of Labor, Olivier Dussopt, always remains open”, declared the Prime Minister during questions to the government in the Senate.
Unions have threatened to freeze the French economy with strikes in several sectors. The most visible edge of the strike takes place at the national railway authority SNCF.
Some unions called for strikes in sectors such as refineries and oil depots, even electricity and gas installations. Workers in each sector will decide locally in the evening about this.
All oil shipments in the country were stopped on Tuesday, amid strikes at the refineries of the TotalEnergies, Esso-ExxonMobil and Petroineos groups, according to the CGT (General Workers’ Centre).
Truckers sporadically blocked major arteries and highway intersections in slow actions near several towns in the French regions.
Navigation on the Rhine resumed this Wednesday afternoon (8) after the police intervened against the blocking of the EDF lock in Marckolsheim, started on Monday night by “hundreds” of workers taking turns, the city hall said. from Lower Rhine. Forty gendarmes and a CRS company were mobilized for the operation which ensured the grounding of 70 large boats.
A fifth of flights were canceled at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and around a third of flights at Orly Airport and are expected to reach a third with the strike by air traffic controllers. Trains to Germany and Spain are to stop, and those to the UK and Belgium will be reduced by a third, according to railway authority SNCF.
Most high-speed trains and regional trains have been cancelled.
Public transport and other services were disrupted in most French cities. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed, as was the Palace of Versailles, west of the capital.
According to the Ministry of Education, around a third of teachers were on strike across the country.