France: new day of massive strike against pension reform
The opposition between unions and the government continues on Tuesday in France, where major demonstrations are again expected against an unpopular pension reform wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, including the raising of the retirement age. departure at age 64 is the flagship measure.
While one to two million people had marched on January 19 during the first inter-union strike call, the mobilization index promises to be high again, with a source in the intelligence services expecting 1.2 million demonstrators nationally “in the high range, including 100,000 in Paris”.
The first processions were to set off at 10 a.m. (9 a.m. GMT).
The strike is very popular in rail transport with “very disrupted” metro and commuter train traffic in the Paris region, as well as that of the high-speed TGV rail network. The situation is even more difficult for regional trains and main line traffic is almost at a standstill.
SNCF, the national railway company, predicts traffic on Monday that is “very severely disrupted”, with two out of ten regional trains and 25 to 30% of high-speed trains depending on the axis.
In Bordeaux (south-west ), Josselin and Alicia Frigier, 40, spent several hours on the bus to return from Madrid but their train for La Rochelle was cancelled.
“We are offered an hour by train and three hours bus”, explains the traveler. Her husband, despite the fatigue, concedes that if there is a strike, “it is surely for a good reason”.
Refineries very mobilized
In the airports, the strike of air traffic controllers was to cause disruptions and delays. One in five flights was to be canceled at Paris-Orly, south of the capital. In Paris-Roissy (north), there must have been enough non-striking personnel to ensure the planned program, according to the general directorate of civil aviation.
The strike is very well attended, as expected, in the refineries, in particular those of the giant TotalEnergies, which have 75 to 100% strikers, the CGT union said on Tuesday morning.
“Shipments of products from TotalEnergies sites are interrupted today but TotalEnergies will continue to supply its network of service stations and its customers”, assured the group's management.
Employees in this sector had already been strongly mobilized on January 19 and 26: fuel shipments had then been blocked for 24 hours each time and walkouts had at times affected up to 100% of the staff on certain sites.< /p>
On the electricity side, the CGT and the website of the public company EDF reported that the strikers had caused production cuts of “nearly 3000 MW” overnight, the equivalent of three nuclear reactors. But without “any impact” for users, according to Fabrice Coudour, federal secretary of the FNME-CGT union.
A national interprofessional strike notice was also filed for the entire public service, where the previous day of action on January 19 had mobilized 28% of strikers among the 2.5 million state employees, according to a figure from the ministry.
In schools, 50% of kindergarten and primary teachers will be on strike, according to the Snuipp-FSU, the leading primary union, which sees this as a sign of a high level of challenge, after the rate of 70% of strikers on January 19.
The pension reform, a crucial project of Emmanuel Macron's second five-year term, to which he had committed himself from the campaign for his first term, provides for a decline in the legal age from 62 to 64 and an acceleration of the extension of the duration of contributions.
The popularity ratings of the President and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne have fallen by five points in a month and a half to stand at 36% and 31% respectively, according to a poll published on Tuesday.
Despite growing rejection in public opinion, the executive remains firm: Emmanuel Macron deemed the reform “indispensable” on Monday evening after Elisabeth Borne who had estimated that the postponement of the legal age of departure to 64 was “no longer negotiable”.
The Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, who plans 11,000 police and gendarmes mobilized throughout France on Tuesday to supervise the demonstrators, for his part accuses the left-wing parties of “messy” the debate to “systematically prevent the government from moving forward”.
Remarks which reflect “a certain excitement on the part of the majority”, estimates Mathilde Panot, president of the group La France insoumise (radical left) in the National Assembly.
Some 7000 amendments have been tabled, including 6,000 on the left, against the reform, which around sixty parliamentarians, meeting within the Social Affairs Committee, began to discuss on Monday.
France is one of the European countries where the he legal retirement age is the lowest, without the pension systems being completely comparable. It's 65 in Germany, Belgium or Spain, 67 in Denmark according to the Center for European and International Social Security Liaison, a French public body.
The government has chosen to extend the working time, taken to respond to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population. He defends his project by presenting it as a “promoter of social progress” in particular by upgrading small pensions.