On Thursday, employees in France will strike in an effort to stop a proposed pension reform that would raise the retirement age by two years to 64. Trains will be affected, schools will be closed, and businesses will be closed.
The national day of strikes and protests will put President Emmanuel Macron and the unions to the test.
According to opinion polls, the majority of French citizens oppose the reform that the government claims is necessary to prevent the pension system from collapsing.
The question for unions, who are much less influential in France than they once were, is whether they can turn the resistance to the reform and outrage over the cost of living crisis into a widespread social protest that would extend past Thursday and eventually force the government to reverse course.
Simone Legendre, a member of the CFE-CGC union that represents white-collar employees, stated that “people are fed up with all this and that’s why we hope many will join us.” Inflation, working conditions, pensions,…
What is at risk for Macron is his reputation as a reformer, both at home and among his peers in the European Union, as well as controlling public spending.
According to calculations from the Labour Ministry, raising the retirement age by two years and prolonging the pay-in period would result in an extra 17.7 billion euros ($19.1 billion) in yearly pension contributions, enabling the system to achieve financial parity by 2027. The pension system can be made to remain viable, according to the unions.
Oliver Veran, a spokesman for the government, claimed the cabinet was “cool, determined” before the strike and pleaded with workers not to bring the nation to a standstill.
The day, according to the unions, is just the beginning of a series of strikes and demonstrations.
According to Sciences Po professor Bruno Palier, “What nobody can know, and even the unions don’t know, is whether French people are cross enough to… block the country.”
According to calculations from the Labour Ministry, raising the retirement age by two years and prolonging the pay-in period would result in extra pension contributions of 17.7 billion euros ($19.1 billion) each year, enabling the system to achieve financial parity by 2027. Unions contend that there are alternative means to guarantee the longevity of the pension system.
In advance of the walkout, government spokesperson Oliver Veran said the cabinet was “cool, determined,” and he asked employees not to bring the nation to a standstill.
Unions have said that today is just the beginning of a series of strikes and demonstrations.
Prof. Bruno Palier of Sciences Po stated that “nobody can know, and even the unions don’t know, whether French people are cross enough to… block the country.”
Rozenn Cros, a teacher in the southern French city of Cannes, declared, “There’s nothing nice about this reform,” as she and other educators prepared for the walkout with banners reading “No to 64.”
The government announced that 10,000 police will be deployed to the streets to try and prevent the protests from degenerating into violence, but France hardline CGT union has threatened to cut off electrical supply to parliamentarians and billionaires.
On Thursday, Macron will meet with the Spanish government in Barcelona together with a number of his ministers. ($1 = 0.9246 euros)