Strike against Macron’s pension reform has begun. Photo: CFDT Syndicat

Teachers, train drivers and refinery workers in France are among those joining a national day of strikes as anger grows over the government’s plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 64. Twelve of France’s biggest unions have come together to lead the protest, a rare unit among them.

According to survey of The world, on the Place de la République in Paris alone there are 400,000 demonstrators, 145,000 in Marseille, 60,000 in Bordeaux, 50,000 in Nantes, 30,000 in both Le Havre and Strasbourg. Unions and the press realize that, far beyond social security, the protesters’ dissatisfaction is expressed around countless other precarious work conditions, in addition to the high cost of living. This soup of revolt could make the demonstrations a huge challenge for Macron.

The protests are a big test for President Emmanuel Macron, who says his pension reform plan – which is highly unfavorable in opinion polls, with 68% of people against the increase – is crucial for the economy. For him, pension plans put his reformist credentials at stake, both in the country and among his peers in the European Union, as a way to contain public spending.

French unions called for mass mobilization on Thursday. The last time they did this was 12 years ago, when the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62. The French worker understands that not only will he work more, but he will also occupy vacancies that could be open to younger people, in a country with increasing unemployment.

While estimates from the French Ministry of Labor say the pension reform would bring in an additional €17.7 billion ($19.1 billion) in annual pension contributions, allowing the system to break even by 2027, unions say there are other ways to ensure the viability of the pension system, such as raising taxes on the super-rich.

Despite the protests, the reform is likely to pass, thanks to Macron’s deal with the main conservative party, The Republicans. Macron believes that this will be a great legacy of his government. If he retreats, he will be weakened in the National Congress.

Demonstration against pension reform in Nîmes. Photo: CFDT Syndicat

Public transport in Paris is at a standstill and trains will struggle to move across France.

According to the main teachers’ union, 70% of primary teachers are on strike as many schools close during the day. Teachers carry banners that say “No to 64”.

Macron’s last attempt at pension reform in 2019 was cut short a year later when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe.

Map of Thursday’s demonstrations in France and its overseas territories.

In French overseas territories, magistrates and justice officials take part in marches in New Caledonia, refineries are blocked by strikers in the Antilles (West Indies), schools are closed in Guyana, 3,000 demonstrators in the streets of Saint-Denis de la Réunion despite the holidays school.

In all these cases, the claims focus on raising the retirement age and criticizing the fiscal austerity imposed by the European Union. Unionists also say that, in these territories, living conditions are more difficult, which will have even worse implications for retirees.

Tuesday at the National Assembly, o presidente da delegação aux overseas, Moetai Brotherson, had challenged the government on the specificities of the overseas territories: “Life expectancy there is 6 years lower than in France, retirement pensions are 15% lower, the poverty rate for retirees is higher, job insecurity is three times higher, there are the vitimas of clordecone or nuclear tests whose careers are stopped either because they die or become disabled. »


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