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At least a million people are protesting against the pension reform in France

The decisive part of Emmanuel Macron’s second term will be decided on the street. As already happened during the reform of the national railway system in 2018, with the protests of the “yellow vests” of the same year and the first pension reform – abandoned in 2020 due to the onset of the pandemic – the French president met once again. With strong social mobilization, in this case against the unpopular delay of the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

Eight major French unions have called for the first day of national mobilization for this Thursday following the announcement of the pension reform bill. As expected, the shutdowns have particularly affected key sectors such as transport – especially in the Paris region – as well as education, refineries and power generation. At the French National Railway Company (SNCF), monitoring has reached 46.3% – particularly high among train drivers – leading to many cancellations, especially on regional trains, according to unions.

The General Confederation of Oil Refinery Workers (CGT) reported that more than 70% of workers continued their strike at most TotalEnergies group facilities, and a resumption of the movement was announced next week in St. specifically on January 26 and 27. The CGT, in its branch of the mining and energy sector, has also announced organizing Reduction of electricity productionHe qualifies, however, that they will have “no consequences for consumers.”

“We will go as many times as necessary”

A large demonstration took place in the afternoon in Paris between the Places de la République, Bastille and Erie, east of the capital, the usual scenes of trade union mobilization. Unions estimated participation at 400,000 people.

“The mobilization exceeded our expectations,” said Laurent Berger, leader of the French Democratic Labor Confederation. His CGT colleague, Philip Martinez, told Agence France Presse that “more than two million people” demonstrated across the country, celebrating “the unification of trade unions as a sign of confidence in workers”.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, for its part, estimated the attendance at the protest in the capital at 80,000 people, while the number of protesters across France is 1.12 million.

“We will take to the streets as many times as necessary,” Natale, one of the capital’s protesters, told wearing a National Union of Secondary School Teachers sticker on his jacket. “You have to ask for more effort from those who have more, you can’t ask everyone to make the same sacrifice.” In the education sector itself, the ministry said 42.35% of primary school teachers and 34.66% of secondary school teachers had gone on strike, far lower than the figures published by trade unions, which estimate 70% and 65% respectively.

High risk reform

Prime Minister Elisabeth Bourne, the portfolio heads for Labor and the Economy and government spokesman Olivier Veran are the visible faces of reform in the media and parliament. Macron, on the other hand, remains in the background for the time being. He spent the day in Barcelona during the Franco-Spanish summit, where he limited himself to saying that the reform had been “democratically presented and confirmed” and that the government would continue the project “with respect and a spirit of dialogue, but determination and a spirit of responsibility”.

The government, the trade unions and the opposition know that the reform of the pension system is an issue that concerns all citizens and that causes particular concern. On the one hand, this is fully reflected in the debate on social inequality. On the other hand, working life expectancy is increasing at a time when all indicators highlight a change in the French work outlook. “We cannot ask people who have spent their whole lives working to work even harder,” said Laurent, one of the protesters at Thursday’s march. “There are other possibilities, when everything has been tried, then as a last option, we can talk about extending the working period.

The future of mobilization

What will be the next steps? Unions are considering an extension in the coming days – as they already did in 1995 – or calling for mobilization spread over several days over several weeks, as in 2010 when opposition to pension reform under Nicolas Sarkozy was organized. The United Union called a meeting on Thursday night to assess the first day of mobilization and organize the continuation of the movement.

“The outcome of the mobilization depends on the ability of unions to create sufficiently effective dynamics and balance of power in the long run, which depends in part on the quality of the ongoing mobilization,” historian Stefan Sirot analyzes in the digital edition. the world. “Strikes, especially when they are diverted and affect key sectors of the economy, are an essential component of the social balance of power.

Source: El Diario





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