Unions flood the streets in France against pension reform

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  • More than a million people demonstrate against the increase in the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 years

  • Transportation, schools and the energy sector is practically paralyzed during the general strike

Unions flood the streets in France against pension reform

“It's been a long time since we've seen so many people in a demonstration”. Samia Elmars, a CGT militant and administrative manager at a university, had a smile on her face when she commented on the massive protest in Paris . French unions flooded the streets of France in the first general strike against pension reform. More than a million and a half people, according to the unions, —and 1.12 million, according to the Ministry of the Interior— They demonstrated this Thursday throughout the country against the will of the government of Emmanuel Macron to increase the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 years (with 42 or 43 years of contributions). ). 

“The subject of retirements channels all the discontents,” assured Mr. the general secretary of the CGT, Philippe Martinez, in an interview for the Public Senat channel. For the first time since 2010, the unions have formed a united front —from the moderate CFDT to the more combative CGT and Sud-Solidaires— to oppose this unpopular measure. Up to 66% of French people reject it, according to a recent survey by the Elabe institute.

The union unit served as a As the engine of the most important day of social mobilizations in the bustling neighboring country since 2010. The number of demonstrators exceeded the one of December 5, 2019, when it began. a wave of protests against Macron's first pension reform, finally abandoned due to covid-19. In fact, it reflected wider outrage aroused, given the deterioration of public services and the economic situation due to inflation and the energy crisis, as well as the economic crisis. such as the will of the Macronist Executive to maintain a reform agenda that cuts the advanced French social model, from pensions to aid for the unemployed.

“This is not the right time for this reform”

“The government has committed stupidity by presenting the reform now. This is not the right time to promote a measure of this type,” Abdellah Chaouch, head of the CGT for firefighters in the Val de Valde department, told EL PERIÓDICO DE CATALUNYA. Marne, in the south of the Parisian region. “We didn't expect there would be so many people, we even had to divide the demonstration along two different boulevards,” said the public. referring to the march in Paris, in which between 400,000 participated, according to the unions, and 80,000 people, according to the authorities.

The march began early. in the Plaza de la República and the day passed. You will walk the streets of the east of the capital, the neighborhoods that were once popular and are now increasingly gentrified. “It is an unfair reform, since it will affect above all the most precarious onesand those who started working before,” criticizes Virginie Adam, 28, who began her professional career working as an assistant to children with disabilities, “one of those professions in which it is difficult to contribute enough to receive a pension. ;full”.

The text, which will be presented next Monday in the Council of Ministers, will also require having contributed for 43 years from 2027He will be able to collect a full pension, instead of 2035 as is the case. provided for in current legislation. Those who fail to contribute during this entire period must retire at age 67 or accept a much lower pension. The centrist Executive defends the need for this measure to balance the pension system. Currently, it is in surplus, but it could accumulate a deficit of about 13,000 million euros in 2030. Which would represent 4% of total spending on pensions.

Education and transportation almost paralyzed

In Paris, the traditional union trucks, banners and balloons dominated the march. There were also numerous homemade banners, with messages such as “Retire before the graveyard,” “We want to retire before arthritis,” or “Stop social regression.” The atmosphere turned out to be mostly festive, despite some incidents, especially in the area of ​​the Place de la Bastille.

“When I see my parents and uncles how tired they are, it doesn't seem normal to me that they have to work even longer,” explained Tany Levecque, 20, a young monitor and student. University, which moved to together with her father from a town in the Parisian 'banlieue'. “This demonstration is not only for pensions, but against macronism and the lack of democracy. (…) It does not seem normal to me that in recent months they have approved 10 measures by decree and without a parliamentary vote”, added this protester, who carried a banner on which she had written: ” Is everything going well in Spain?”, in a reference to the presence in Barcelona of the president and various ministers coinciding with the day of the general strike.

In addition to the capital, there were well-attended protests in Marseille (145,000 demonstrators, according to organizers), Toulouse(50,000) or Nantes (50,000), as well as as in numerous medium and small towns. The unions had called more than 200 marches. The effects of the strike were particularly noticeable in transport, education, energy and the civil service as a whole.

As is often the case with national strikes in France, support varied considerably depending on the sectors. It turned out multitudinous among the railway agents —regional trains barely circulated and less than 30% of high-speed trains— and bus and metro drivers —only two robotic metro lines (out of a total of 16) in Paris— such as workers at power plants and fuel refineries(70% strikers, according to the unions). According to SNUipp-FSU, the main organization for primary education in France, at least a third of schools were closed. And 70% of teachers (around 40% according to the Ministry of Education) supported the strike.

The unions overflow the streets in France against the pension reform

Access to the Montparnasse metro station in Paris, closed by the strike of this Thursday.

STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

“The protests will harden”

In the private sector, monitoring was much more heterogeneous. However, traditionally non-confrontational sectors supported the mobilization, from the diplomatic corps to the employees of video game companies, including Amazon employees and Sephora salespeople. Even the Eiffel Tower opted for it. for not opening its doors.

Despite the blow at the table given by the unions, Macron expressed his concern. from Barcelona expressed hiswillingness to approve the reform “with determination and a spirit of responsibility.” “If the government insists on moving forward with the measure, the protests will harden ,” warns Chaouch, from the CGT. The unions prepare another general strike for January 31. In sectors such as refineries, stoppages of several days are already planned, which could cause supply problems at gas stations, as has already happened in the past. in October.

The social battle for pensions has just begun in France. And after having visited the Picasso museum in Barcelona, ​​Macron will have to visit the museum. Row hard if you want to convince your fellow citizens of the need for your unpopular reform.