France strikes: One million protest against Macron’s rise in retirement age.
France protest. More than a million people joined a day of protests and strikes, according to France’s interior ministry, against plans to push back the age of retirement from 62 to 64.
In France, Over a million French citizens were out to demonstrate in the streets across France, in Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille, Toulouse and in about 200 more French cities. Train drivers, public sector workers and refinery staff walked out as a result.
According to witnesses, the protests/strikes severely disrupted public transport and many schools were closed, one of the worst outcome for the government would be rolling strikes in transport, hospitals and fuel depots as this is capable of bringing the country to a standstill.
The head of the big CGT union, Philippe Martinez, put the total number of protesters at beyond two million, which is actually higher than the government’s 1.12 million figure. They said 400,000 people had joined the biggest march, from Palace de la République in Paris.
According to a reliable source, Police were out in force in Paris in case of violence from ultra-left “black bloc” infiltrators but there were only few clashes and 38 arrests. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne praised both the police and the unions for the “good conditions” in which the protests had taken place.
Hailed by the government as a vital measure to safeguard France’s share-out pension system, the reform is proving deeply unpopular among the public, with 68% saying they are opposed, according to an IFOP poll this week.
The unions have scheduled another day of action for 31st January 2023, coming out in the streets to protest against legislation that will require French citizens to work until 64, from 62 currently, to qualify for a full state pension.
The opposition argues the system is not technically in deficit at the moment, so there is no urgency to act. It says there are cost-saving alternatives to making people work longer, such as cutting pensions for the better-off.
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It also says the brunt of the reform will be borne by the poorest. These are people who tend to start work earlier in life, so have normally earned the right to a full pension by the age of 62. Now they will have to work two extra years for no added benefit.
To palliate the effects of the reform, Élisabeth Borne has promised easier ways to retire early for people in dangerous or physically demanding jobs; steps to encourage older people back into the workforce; and a higher guaranteed minimum pension.
This is the seventh French pension reform since President François Mitterrand cut the retirement age to 60 in 1982.
Every subsequent attempt to reverse that change has led to mass opposition on the street – though in most cases, the reform did in the end go through. For example, in 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy raised the retirement age to 62, despite weeks of protests.
Nearly all other European countries have taken steps to raise the official retirement age, with Italy and Germany, for example, on 67 and Spain on 65. In the UK it is currently 66.
President Macron made an earlier, and more ambitious, attempt to reform the system at the end of 2019, but pulled the plug when Covid hit.