France: protests and massive strike against pension reform

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France: demonstrations and massive strike against a pension reform

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 dlqbmr">The increase in the retirement age does not pass in part of the French population.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marching across the country, very disrupted transport on the rail network and, in Paris, schools closed: France faced a day of massive strike on Thursday against the plan to reform pensions, a test for President Emmanuel Macron in a tense economic and social context.

The project and its flagship measure, the postponement of the retirement age to 64 years, against 62 today, comes up against a united trade union front and a wide hostility in public opinion according to polls.

In the Parisian procession, placards proclaim Metro, job, tomb or Metro, job, cellar.

It's not so much for me, because I'm an executive, I started working at 25, so anyway even without the reform, I've my retirement at 65. But it's out of solidarity because it's a completely unfair reform and which strongly disadvantages the working classes, believes Damien Mathieu, 36, an IT employee, demonstrating in Toulouse, in the south of France. West of France.

Protesters pounded the pavement Thursday morning in many French cities, before the Parisian procession set off at the start of the afternoon to say no to the increase in the legal retirement age. retirement.

The Ministry of the Interior has identified 1.12 million demonstrators in France, including 80,000 in Paris, he announced Thursday evening. The CGT union has advanced for its part the figure of more than two million demonstrators, according to its secretary general, Philippe Martinez, for whom this pension reform channels all the discontent in France.

More than 200 demonstrations took place in Paris and in the regions, mostly peaceful. A few clashes, tensions or damage were reported in Paris, Lyon and Rennes.

The mobilization is beyond what we thought, welcomed the number one of the CFDT union, Laurent Berger.

Protesters stormed Paris on Thursday.

The Minister of Labour, Olivier Dussopt, admitted that the mobilization had been important. Deeming it normal that a pension reform raises concerns, he indicated that it was necessary to respond to them and listen to the messages.

A new day of mobilization against the reform is already scheduled for January 31.

The eight main French unions agreed on this date, according to several union sources, during a meeting after the Paris demonstration.

The processions brought together many public or private workers who feared being worn out or broken at 64, such as Nathalie Etchegaray, 48, a childminder in Orléans.

“I've been working for 25 years, I've never been on strike before. The trigger is seeing our older colleagues hurting all over. They have sciatica, back pain, elbow tendonitis from carrying babies.

—Nathalie Etchegaray, a protester

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Trucks lined up on the A-16 highway near from Dunkirk on Thursday as ferries to and from Calais halted operations as part of the day of strikes.

The agents of the public electricity company EDF have made cuts in electricity production, reaching at least the equivalent of twice the consumption of Paris.

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

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

Many public services have been the subject of strike calls, particularly education, where the main union, the FSU, has counted 70% of striking teachers in schools and schools. 65% in middle and high schools.

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Emmanuel Macron, whose pension reform is a crucial project of the second five-year term, for which he was committed from the campaign of his first term, plays big: his party, which does not have a majority in the National Assembly, could be weakened if the movement were deep and lasting.

This political test for the president comes in a tense economic and social context. The French are suffering the effects of high inflation, averaging 5.2% in 2022, in a country that was rocked during Emmanuel Macron's first term by protests by Yellow Vests against high prices .

Thursday, Mr. Macron came out of his silence on this reform from Barcelona − where he went as part of a Franco-Spanish summit − saying he hopes that the demonstrations in France will take place without excesses, while defending a project which, according to him, has already been democratically validated.

France is one of the European countries where the legal retirement age is the lowest, without the pension systems being completely comparable. The government has chosen to extend working hours to respond to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population. He defends his project by presenting it as a bearer of social progress, in particular by upgrading small pensions.

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