© Reuters. SNCF Specific Regional (TER) trains are seen on the Saint-Lazare prepare station in Paris on the eve of a nationwide day of strike and protests in key sectors like power, public transport, air journey and colleges in opposition to the pension reform, France, January 1
By Eric Gaillard and Ingrid Melander
NICE/TOURS (Reuters) – French staff went on strike and joined marches throughout the nation on Thursday, halting trains and chopping electrical energy manufacturing in a nationwide day of protest in opposition to authorities plans to lift the retirement age by two years to 64.
The stoppages are a serious take a look at for President Emmanuel Macron, who says his pension reform plan, which opinion polls present is massively unpopular, is significant to make sure the system doesn’t go bust.
Pushing again the retirement age by two years and lengthening the pay-in interval would carry extra 17.7 billion euros ($19.1 billion) in annual pension contributions, permitting the system to interrupt even by 2027, in accordance with Labour Ministry estimates.
“This reform is important and honest,” Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt informed LCI TV.
However the protesters disagreed.
“It is salaries and pensions that should be elevated, not the retirement age,” learn one massive banner carried by staff that opened the protest march in Excursions, in western France.
“I am going to have to arrange my strolling body if the reform goes via,” stated Isabelle, 53, a social employee, saying her job was too robust so as to add two extra years.
Brigitte Meny, an early retiree, stated she was protesting to point out solidarity with former colleagues.
“Sixty-four it is too outdated,” she stated. “And I am additionally right here as a result of I am fed up with Macron.”
In Good, in southern France, a big banner learn: “No to the reform.”
Unions argue there are different methods to make sure the viability of the pension system reminiscent of taxing the super-rich or growing employers’ contributions or these of well-off pensioners.
The problem for them is to remodel opposition to the reform – and anger over a cost-of-living disaster – right into a mass social protest which may finally pressure the federal government to alter tack.
Union leaders, anticipated to announce extra strikes and protests within the night, stated Thursday was just the start.
“We’d like lots of people to affix the protests,” Laurent Berger, head of France’s largest union, CFDT, informed BFM TV. “Individuals are in opposition to this reform … we have to present it (within the streets).”
The pension reform nonetheless must undergo parliament, the place Macron has misplaced his absolute majority however is hoping to get it handed with the help of conservatives.
Practice drivers, lecturers and refinery staff have been amongst those that walked off their jobs. France Inter radio ran its music playlist as a substitute of its common programming and bus drivers and civil servants additionally went on strike.
Solely between one-in-three and one-in-five high-speed TGV strains have been working, with barely any native or regional trains operating, the SNCF rail operator stated.
In Paris, some metro stations have been closed and site visitors was critically disrupted, with few trains operating.
Within the busy Gare du Nord station, individuals rushed to catch the few trains nonetheless working whereas workers in yellow vests have been helping frazzled commuters.
Restaurant employee Beverly Gahinet, who missed work as a result of her prepare was cancelled, stated she agreed with the strike even when she was not collaborating.
However not all have been so understanding.
“I do not perceive, it is at all times the identical (individuals) who’re on strike … and we’ve to endure it,” stated actual property employee Virginie Pinto, as she struggled to discover a metro to go to work.
A 2007 ban on wildcat walkouts and restrictions on strikes to ensure minimal public companies have restricted unions’ potential to put on down governments’ reform ambitions.
The truth that working from house is rather more frequent now because the pandemic may additionally have an effect.
TAX THE RICH?
Public sector staff are sometimes on the forefront of strikes, and a few seven out of 10 major college lecturers stopped work, and almost as many in excessive colleges, their unions stated, although the Schooling Ministry gave a lot decrease figures.
In Paris, college students blockaded not less than one highschool in help of the strike motion.
EDF (EPA:) and grid operator RTE knowledge confirmed electrical energy manufacturing was down by roughly 12% of whole energy provide, prompting France to lift imports.
Shipments have been blocked at TotalEnergies’ refineries in France, union and firm officers stated. TotalEnergies chief government Patrick Pouyanne stated on Wednesday that someday of strikes wouldn’t disrupt refinery operations, however this might change if protests continued.
The affect on air site visitors was largely restricted to a discount of about 20% of flights in Orly, Paris’ second-biggest airport. Air France stated it was working all its long-haul flights and 90% of its brief and medium-haul flights.
Macron and a number of other of his ministers in the meantime have been in Barcelona on Thursday for a gathering with Spanish officers.