“Paris enraged”: the French once again flooded the streets across the country to protest against the pension reform

A committee of legislators meeting behind closed doors validated the wording of President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension plan (REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes) (GONZALO FUENTES /)

The Frenchmen hoping to preserve their retirement benefits took to the streets on Wednesday at a national protest as a committee of lawmakers meeting behind closed doors validated the wording of the president’s unpopular pension plan Emmanuel Macron.

Macron had the means in the joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly to advance his plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, but whether he can win a parliamentary majority remains to be seen. Otherwise, Macron would have to unilaterally impose the unpopular changes.

The unions hope that some 200 protests across the country demonstrate the political consequences of the change, which Macron has promoted as a central part of his vision to make the French economy more competitive.

Economic challenges have sparked widespread unrest across Western Europe. In Britain on Wednesday, teachers, junior doctors and public transport staff were on strike for higher wages to match rising prices. And Spain’s left-wing government joined unions in announcing a “historic” deal to save its pension system by raising social security costs for the highest wages.

Spain’s solution is exactly what the French unions would like, but Macron has refused to raise taxes, saying it would make the country’s economy less competitive. Something must be done, the president argued, as France’s retired population is expected to rise from 16 to 21 million people by 2050.

Protests in Ancenis-Saint-Gereon (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe)
Protests in Ancenis-Saint-Gereon (REUTERS/Stephane Mahe) (STEPHANE MAHE/)

Loud music and huge union balloons kicked off the Paris demonstration near Napoleon’s tomb in the golden dome of Les Invalides. A series of banners set the tone: “They say capitalism. We say fight”, said one. Others said “Paris enraged” or “If rights are not defended, they are trampled.”

“If we don’t speak up now, all our rights that the French have fought for will be lost,” said Nicolas Durand, a 33-year-old actor. Macron is out of touch and in bed with the rich. It’s easy for people in government to say ‘work harder,’ but their lives have been easy.”

A strike by sanitation workers in its 10th day has left Paris awash with piles of stale rubbish, which police ordered removed along the march route after rioters used trash to start fires or hurled trash at police. in recent demonstrations.

The demonstrators, accompanied by a strong security force, advanced on the Left Bank along streets free of obstacles. A group of rioters dressed in black formed up and attacked a small business, police said, adding that nine people had been detained three hours after the start of the march.

“We are not voting for this,” reads the sign (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes) (GONZALO FUENTES/)

Security forces responded to the violence with charges and tear gas in several other cities, including Rennes and Nantes in eastern France and Lyon in the southeast, according to French media.

The commission of seven senators and seven legislators from the National Assembly reached an agreement on the final text of the bill on Wednesday afternoon. The Senate, whose conservative majority favors raising the retirement age, is expected to approve it on Thursday.

The situation in the National Assembly is much more complicated.

Macron’s centrist alliance lost a majority in legislative elections last year, forcing the government to rely on conservative votes to pass the bill. The legislators of left and far right are strongly opposed.

The leader of the conservative Assembly Republicans, Eric Ciotti, told the newspaper Journal du Dimanche that “the best interest of the nation… commands us to vote for the reform.” But his side is divided and some plan to vote against or abstain, making the outcome unpredictable.

With no guarantee of a majority, Macron’s government faces a dilemma: A Thursday afternoon vote in the National Assembly would give the bill more legitimacy if it passes, but there is a risk it will be rejected. Instead, Macron could force the bill through parliament without a vote, risking immediate criticism from the political opposition and unions over the lack of democratic debate.

The unions hope that some 200 protests throughout the country will demonstrate the political consequences of the change (REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes)
The unions hope that some 200 protests throughout the country will demonstrate the political consequences of the change (REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes) (GONZALO FUENTES/)

French government spokesman Olivier Veransaid Wednesday that the bill will continue its way through the legislative process, respecting “all the rules that our Constitution establishes.”

Véran was speaking after a weekly Cabinet meeting during which the government did not discuss whether to use its special constitutional power.

Republican party legislator Aurelien Pradiéwhich opposes the reforms, said on Wednesday that if this special power were used, it would challenge its democratic legitimacy by going to the constitutional council, a top French legal body.

Train conductors, schoolteachers, dock workers, oil refinery workers and others joined garbage collectors in leaving their jobs on Wednesday, maneuvering among thousands of tons of rubbish piling up on the sidewalks of Paris and other French cities. .

The Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanncalled on the Paris City Council to force some of the garbage workers to return to work, calling it a public health problem.

The mayoress of Paris, the socialist Anne HidalgoHe said he supports the strike. Government spokesman Véran warned that if she does not comply, the Interior Ministry is ready to act in her place.

Meanwhile, public transport has been disrupted by strikes: about 40% of high-speed trains and half of regional trains have been cancelled. The Paris Metro has slowed down and France’s aviation authority has warned of delays, saying 20% ​​of flights at Paris-Orly airport have been cancelled.

“It will be those who work the hardest who get a bad deal. It’s always like that,” said Magali Brutel, a 41-year-old nurse. “Very rich people could pay more taxes, that is a good solution to pay for the aging of the population. Why are we effectively taxing the oldest and the poorest?

(With information from AP and EFE)

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