Tuesday saw a second day of widespread protests by striking workers against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension proposal to extend the age at which individuals can retire. These demonstrations interrupted deliveries to refineries, public transportation, and schools across France.
Crowds protested a proposal that would raise the retirement age from 60 to 64, which is a test of Macron’s capacity to implement change given that he no longer has a working majority in parliament.
Only one in three TGV high-speed trains and even fewer local and regional trains were running on the rail networks. The Paris metro’s operations were severely disrupted.
Trade unions, which have been fighting to maintain their power and influence, asked the public to turn out in large numbers, buoyed by their success earlier in the month when more than a million people took to the streets.
Bus driver Isabelle Texier declared at a demonstration in Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast, “We won’t drive till we’re 64!” noting that numerous professions required difficult working circumstances.
Others experienced resignation in the wake of potential negotiations between Macron’s ruling coalition and opponents from the right, who are more receptive to pension reform than the left.
“Going on strike is pointless. In any case, this law will be accepted “said Matthieu Jacquot, a 34-year-old employee in the luxury industry.
According to unions, 50 percent of elementary school teachers have quit their jobs. In its refineries, TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) said that 55% of workers on morning shifts had put down their tools, which is less than on Jan. 19. The amount is false, according to the extreme-left CGT union.
Maintaining a strike movement at a time when high inflation is undermining wages would be difficult for unions.
Locally, some people reported “Robin Hood” operations that the government had not authorized. The local CGT trade union branch turned off the electricity to many speed cameras and disabled smart power meters in the southwest Lot-et-Garonne region.
Mylene Jacquot, secretary general of the public employee’s chapter of the CFDT union, said, “It would be risky for the government to not listen when there is such a large resistance.”
Despite the fact that a sizable majority of French people oppose the reform, according to polls, Macron plans to keep his ground. He stated on Monday that the reform was “essential” to ensure the sustainability of the pension system.
Later in the day, a street protest takes place in Paris.
According to projections from the Labour Ministry, the pension system reform would result in an increase of 17.7 billion euros ($19.18 billion) in yearly pension contributions.
The ultra-wealthy should be taxed, according to unions, and employers or wealthy retirees could be asked to contribute more.
The secretary general of the UNSA union representing government officials, Luc Farre, declared that the change was “brutal and unfair.” “Going backward socially is raising (the pension age to 64,”
According to data from utility company EDF (EDF.PA), the French power supply was reduced by 4.5%, or 3 gigawatts (GW), when workers at nuclear reactors and thermal facilities joined the protest.
The strike, according to TotalEnergies, has slowed supplies of petroleum products from its French facilities, but customers’ demands have been addressed.
While drafting the Act, the government made some adjustments. In addition to guaranteeing a minimum pension of 1,200 euros per month, the government is implementing Macron’s original proposal to raise the retirement age to 65.
The 64-year-old mark is “non-negotiable,” according to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, but the government is looking into measures to lessen some of the effects, particularly on women.
A proposal calling for a referendum on the change will be discussed in parliament on Monday, according to hard-left opposition leader Jean-Luc Melenchon.
At a march in Marseille, he declared, “The French are not stupid.” “It should be easy to persuade the people that this reform is essential.”