France woke up this Tuesday affected by the first measures of the strike called by the unions in protest of the reform of the pension system proposed by the government of Emmanuel Macron. On Monday there were already roadblocks to some urban centers, and in the early hours of Tuesday blockades were established to prevent fuel from leaving the most important refineries in the country.
This Tuesday, the sixth day of demonstrations since January 19, is considered “D-Day” for those who seek to force the government to withdraw its reform that involves delaying the retirement age from 62 to 64 years to 2030, and bringing it forward to 2027. the requirement of having 43 years of contributions (and not 42, as now) to collect a full pension.
The SNCF railway company and the Paris transport system foresee major traffic disturbances on Tuesday and Wednesday. Regarding aviation, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) has asked airlines to reduce their flight hours by between 20 and 30% on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The main education union, Snuipp-FSU, forecasts that “more than 60%” of primary school teachers will be on strike and “several thousand schools” will remain closed on Tuesday. In the universities, about twenty cuts are planned.
“The responsibility lies solely with the government. You cannot turn a deaf ear to this social movement,” CGT leader Philippe Martinez told France Info, stressing that they are entering a “new phase” with extendable strikes.
After weeks of unsuccessful peaceful protests, including the most important in three decades against a social reform on January 31 with 1.27 million people, according to the police (2.8 million, for the CGT), now they seek to “paralyze” the economy.
FO leader Frédéric Souillot told RTL radio that the unions hope to get “more than two million” people onto the streets. A police source estimates that between 1.1 and 1.4 million will participate in the sixth day of protests.
Demonstrators in Marseille march as part of the sixth day of demonstrations against the pension reform promoted by the Macron government. Photo: AP
The Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, described this objective as “irresponsible” on Monday night, on the France 5 channel, now focused on discrediting the opposition movement after failing to convince them of the need for reform.
With the train service and public transport in Paris, key to the capital’s economy, “very disturbed”, the government called on French people who can to work from home.
But with 60% of early childhood and primary education teachers on strike and thousands of schools closed, according to the unions, many of them were forced to look for alternatives to care for their children.
“They have no choice. Luckily, there is the grandmother,” Michèle, a 75-year-old retiree in Bordeaux (southwest), told AFP on Monday, who must take care of her granddaughter on Tuesday because of her parents’ work.
Marches and protests in Paris for the protest against the pension reform. Photo: AP
Although the aim is to lock down the economy, the economic impact of the strikes will be “limited”, according to ING bank analysts, for whom, even in the event of long lockdowns, it will not exceed 0.2 percentage points of GDP.
A resisted reform and a determined government
According to polls, two out of three French people oppose the project to delay the retirement age from 62 to 64 years by 2030 and advance to 2027 the requirement of 43 years of contributions to collect a full pension.
The government affirms that what is sought by raising one of the lowest retirement ages in Europe is to avoid a future deficit in the pension fund, in a context of increasing life expectancy of the population.
His attempts to convince the need for this reform have not borne fruit among public opinion, although in Parliament he has the support of the right-wing opposition to push it forward.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who promotes the pension reform. Photo: AFP
The last time the French managed to stop a pension reform was in 1995. The unions paralyzed train and metro services for three weeks and managed to maintain massive support in public opinion.
Macron is playing a significant part of his political credit, after the pandemic forced him to abandon a previous reform during his first term, also marked by the social protest of the “yellow vests”.
In the absence of a majority in Parliament, which is currently discussing the measure, the government chose a controversial procedure that allows it to apply it from the end of March, if the two chambers have not ruled on it.
Source: AFP and RFI