Macron Faces Pension Showdown, Strikes and Protests Across France - Liberty

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Macron Faces Pension Showdown, Strikes and Protests Across France

Trade union leaders and protesters march in Paris on Thursday. The strike included teachers, railroad workers, public radio station employees, and oil refineries. Benoît Tessier

French classrooms are empty, trains aren't moving, and the Parisian metro is in chaos on Thursday's rice fields.

With more than 200 demonstrations planned, officials expected between 550,000 and 750,000 protesters to march on the first day of the long-running standoff between the government and the united front of trade unions.

Teachers, railroad workers, public radio stations, and oil refinery workers went on strike, halting traffic in the port north of Calais and shutting down the Eiffel Tower. About 45% of workers are on strike, the union at France's state-owned electricity company said, deliberately cutting production.

The strike also means unions want to stay strong and move forward despite widespread opposition to his plan, which includes measures to raise the president's retirement age from 62 to 62. This is also important for the president. 64.

"If there is no positive reaction from the government, today is the first step and there will be the next," CGT trade union president Philippe Martinez told reporters before the march in Paris. . Paddy field.

President Emmanuel Macron's plan to raise the legal retirement age is part of an attempt to balance the budget of the pension program by allowing French citizens to work longer hours. Pool photo by Ludovic Marin

The strikes and protests mirror 2019 when Mr. Macron first attempted to overhaul and rebuild France's complex but generous national pension system. These plans sparked massive demonstrations until the coronavirus pandemic forced the government to cancel their plans.

Mr. Macron's latest plan is a more direct attempt to balance the system's budget by making the French work longer.

The plan, presented last week and set to be debated in parliament in February, accelerates earlier changes that increased the number of years workers must pay into the system to receive their full pension.

However, according to the latest polls, about 60% of French people oppose Mr. Macron's plans. The government takes steps to keep the system fair. For example, efforts have been taken to continue exemptions that allow early retirement for those who start working young. Job seekers, who are effectively barred from the French labor market, are particularly concerned about possible delays in retirement.

By noon on Thursday, tens of thousands of protesters marched in cities such as Nantes, Marseille, and Toulouse, chanting slogans such as "retire before arthritis" and holding signs. The biggest protests occurred in Paris, where demonstrators packed the Place de la Republique.

Protesters gathered at Place de la Republique in Paris on Thursday. Louis Jolie / Associated Press

Fearing clashes between police in riot gear and violent protesters, many shops in Paris boarded up their windows. Authorities said more than 10,000 of his police officers were deployed across the country to step up security during the protests.

Political student Thomas Ouvriard, 20, and French postal worker Ignacio Francon, 23, hold up a giant poster depicting Macron's attire near the Place de la Bastille in Paris. He smiled as Louis XIV looked on.

Both men said they were protesting partly out of solidarity and concern for their future.

Students blocked access to Paris schools in Thursday's nationwide strike, Benoit Tessier

At noon Thursday, the union announced that 65-70 percent of elementary, middle, and high school teachers were on strike. According to the Ministry of Education, this number is low, around 35-42%.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a prominent left-wing politician in France's Ambud party and a staunch opponent of Mr. Macron, told reporters in Marseille:

Many trains have been suspended nationwide. In Paris, a handful of Metro lines have been completely closed, many only opening during rush hours or severely disrupted. Service was intermittent on many commuter lines in the Paris area. Some of the busiest in Europe.

But the chaos didn't add to the chaos at the train station, as many Parisians chose to work from home or use different modes of transport.

But delays and cancellations fueled frustration. At the Gare du Nord, the central train station in Paris, 42-year-old Catherine Gross was found smoking cigarettes in front of the station sign.

"My train keeps getting late. I've been wandering around the station for two and a half hours," said Gross, an insurance saleswoman. "Sorry to mention strikers, but they're on my nerves.

The entrance to a train station in Paris was closed on Thursday. Benoît Tessier

She said she lost all hope of reaching her office in Gennevilliers, north of Paris when another train she was supposed to take was canceled.

It is just hurting retired people." He said. She said, referring to the French president and prime minister.

French Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt told the LCI news channel that the government respects the right of strikers to protest, but does not want the country to come to a standstill.

"When it comes to pensions, there are always concerns," she told her Dust. "I know they are asking France to cooperate more."

"All pension reforms have plagued public opinion," Dust added. "For all French people, this is a very personal question."