Greater than 800,00zero individuals have marched in cities throughout France as railway employees, lecturers and hospital workers held one of many largest public sector strikes in a long time towards Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overtake the pension system.
A nationwide transport strike introduced a lot of France to a standstill and was anticipated to proceed for the subsequent few days as unions dug in, saying the president’s pension modifications would power thousands and thousands of individuals to work longer or obtain decrease funds.
Trains, metros and bus companies had been severely hit, some flights had been cancelled and many faculties had been closed within the largest problem to Macron’s reform agenda because the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) anti-government protests erupted final yr.
In Paris, police briefly fired teargas throughout skirmishes with black-clad protesters on the sides of the commerce union-led march within the early afternoon. Some protesters set hearth to a storage trailer, smashed home windows and a bus shelter, and overturned vehicles. Firefighters put out small fires lit in bins.
Greater than 6,00zero riot police lined the route of the demonstration from Paris Gare du Nord to the east of the town, whereas teams of officers stopped individuals strolling in the direction of the demonstration and searched luggage. By late afternoon there had been greater than 70 arrests and 9,00zero searches.
Riot police in Nantes, western France, fired teargas at masked protesters, who hurled projectiles at them.
The Paris march included hospital workers, electrical energy employees, firefighters, lecturers and college pupils in addition to gilets jaunes protesters who had taken half in blockades on roundabouts earlier this yr. Banners learn: “Macron out.”
Isabelle Jarrivet, 52, who had labored as an administrator in a city corridor north of Paris for 20 years, stated: “It’s a query of life or demise for the French social system, which Macron is dismantling. We’re being taken again to a time earlier than 1945, the place we threat dropping the social security internet. Personal pension funds are ready within the wings to learn.”
She added: “The gilets jaunes protests received individuals considering and speaking extra about politics and other people decided to not let issues cross. You’ll be able to really feel a defiant temper within the air.”
The standoff is a vital check for the centrist president, whose deliberate overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. Macron’s workplace stated he was following occasions intently “with calm and dedication”.
The federal government argues that unifying the pensions system – and eliminating the 42 “particular” regimes for sectors starting from rail and vitality employees to legal professionals and Paris Opera workers – is essential to maintain the system financially viable because the inhabitants ages. However unions say introducing a common system for all will imply thousands and thousands of employees in each the private and non-private sectors should work past the authorized retirement age of 62 or face a extreme drop within the worth of their pensions.
The row cuts to the center of Macron’s presidential mission and his pledge to ship the largest transformation of the French social mannequin and welfare system because the postwar period. Since his election in 2017, Macron has leaned in the direction of a Nordic type of “flexi-security” by which the labour market is loosened and the main target is on altering from a inflexible work code to a society of people transferring between jobs.
Whereas many citizens agree the pensions system ought to be modified, they aren’t certain the pro-business president might be trusted to do it. A latest Ifop ballot discovered 76% of individuals again pensions reform, however 64% don’t belief the federal government to drag it off.
Public transport unions stated they’d prolong their strike till not less than Monday, after 90% of TGV and regional trains had been cancelled and almost all traces on the Paris metro had been affected.
Sandrine Berger, an engineering lecturer at a Paris college and a consultant for the leftwing CGT union, stated: “That is about defending public companies, that are being chipped away and turned in the direction of an American mannequin of privatisation.”
She criticised the federal government for suggesting public sector employees had been privileged. With two PhDs, a 26-year profession and a senior job working a division of 70 individuals, Berger stated she earned €2,200 (£1,860) a month earlier than tax, together with bonuses.
Grégory Chaillou, a fireplace officer, stated: “We’ll see this via to the tip. The general public understands the necessity to help public companies and employees.”
As commuters in Paris turned to utilizing bikes and scooters, the environmental group Extinction Revolt claimed duty for the sabotage of three,600 electrical scooters in Paris and different French cities, saying the inexperienced picture of the modern devices hid an “ecologically catastrophic” actuality.
Extinction Revolt stated it had sabotaged the scooters, together with greater than 2,00zero in Paris in addition to in Bordeaux and Lyon, by obscuring the QR codes that riders use to unlock them with their smartphones.
“Opposite to their fame as a ‘mushy’ or ‘inexperienced’ approach of getting round, the electrical scooters are ecologically catastrophic,” the group stated in an announcement on its French Fb web page.