Friday, 21 January, 2022

Pension reform: the strike movement is likely to last

At least 800,000 people took to the streets on Thursday across France and entire sectors of activity slowed down as part of a massive mobilization against pension reform, the flagship promise of Emmanuel Macron’s five-year term, with incidents in the capital.

The CGT announced it more than 1.5 million demonstrators throughout the country and 250,000 in Paris. The Interior Ministry has for its part identified 806,000 demonstrators, including 65,000 in the capital. The Occurrence cabinet, which works for a media collective including AFP, counted 40,500 demonstrators from a counting point on the route of the Parisian parade, a figure likely to have been affected by the clashes that led some demonstrators to change their route.

“It’s beautiful this event with lawyers, yellow vests, caregivers, firefighters, it’s nice,” said Pascal Marichala, CNRS researcher who came with his family to Bordeaux, where 20,000 people beat the pavement according to the prefecture, 53,000 according to the CGT.

“It reminds me of 68! It’s drunk, there are lots of people!”, Commented Désiré, 79 years old, 59 years of activism at Lutte Ouvrière, in the Parisian procession which had to stop several times and was marked by incidents, in particular between the police and “black blocs”. A construction trailer was turned over and set on fire on the outskirts of Place de la République, and several windows smashed, while the police wiped projectile jets and replied with tear gas.

“Very strong mobilization”

At 6:00 p.m., 60 people were in custody on the sidelines of the demonstration, the prosecution said.

Clashes between police and demonstrators also took place in several other cities, including Lyon, Montpellier and Toulouse. Despite the incidents, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe “paid tribute” to the unions, noting that in “a very large number of cities”, the demonstrations “went well”.

“It is a very strong mobilization in the public as in the private sector”, rejoiced earlier Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the CGT.

“We are starting very, very high,” reacted in the early evening the secretary general of Force Ouvrière, Yves Veyrier, on RTL, calling on the government to abandon the reform. For FO, this mobilization is of a “rare magnitude, unprecedented since 2010 and 1995”.

President Emmanuel Macron is “calm and determined to carry out this reform, listening and consulting,” said the Elysee, specifying that “the Prime Minister would speak in the middle of next week on the general architecture of the reform “.

“There is still room for negotiation,” assured government spokesperson Sibeth Ndiaye.

At the origin of the mobilization, the future “universal system” of pensions by points, supposed to replace the 42 existing schemes (general, civil servants, private, special, autonomous, complementary). The executive promises a “more readable” and “fairer” system, when opponents fear a “precariousness” of retirees.

In the time?

Several recent polls have shown that the movement, at the behest of the CGT, FO, FSU and Solidaires as well as several youth organizations, was mainly supported by the French.

In transport, there were 90% TGV and 80% TER canceled, and 10 Paris metro lines closed. The rate of strikers at the SNCF reached 55.6% on average, never seen since 2007, and 85.7% among drivers, according to management.

Seven of the eight French refineries were on strike and airlines were asked to cut their schedule by 20% on Thursday and Friday. Air France has announced the cancellation of 30% of its domestic flights and 10% of its medium-haul flights.

Many schools have remained closed. The Ministry of Education identified 51.15% of striking teachers in primary and 42.32% in secondary. Some of the teachers will be on strike again on Friday.

Also strike in the police at the call of several unions. The officials performed a minimum service, blocking some police stations.

In total, 26% of civil servants were on strike at 6 p.m., according to the services of Secretary of State Olivier Dussopt.

At EDF, the strike rate reached 41.4% according to management. The management of Enedis reported a rate of 60.37% among the employees present.

The rate of strikers reached 5% at Renault, according to management, a figure higher than usual, according to Fabien Gâche (CGT) for whom “we had not seen that for a long time”. In Orange, the CFE-CGC estimated the proportion of strikers at 15%, “one of the highest rates since the 2000s”.

Garbage collectors, lawyers, retirees or road transporters had also called for action. As well as “yellow vests”, the PS, LFI, the RN or the PCF.

“Put yourself on the face a little”

Unions unfamiliar with demonstrations were part of the party, including Unsa federations, CFTC unions and CFE-CGC.

Only the CFDT continues to support the idea of ​​a “universal” reform. But its secretary general, Laurent Berger, regretted that “the prevailing logic is all the same to put yourself in the face a little before starting to discuss”.

The unions at the origin of this day are to meet on Friday to decide on the continuation of the movement. Transport should remain very disrupted: at the RATP, the renewal of the movement was voted until Monday and the management predicted 10 metro lines closed, like Thursday. At SNCF, management still plans 90% TGV and 70% TER canceled on Friday.

(With AFP)

Pension reform