Friday, October 7

France’s unions protest against inflation and Macron’s pension reform


first day of protests in France in this autumn marked by the inflation and the energy crisis. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated this Thursday in the whole of the neighboring country to ask for increases in salary against inflation and against an unpopular reform of the pensions.

More than 200 protests took place in a day of mobilizations convened by the CGT, FSU and Solidaires —three of the main Gallic unions—, although it did not have the support of the CFDT (the organization with the largest number of members) or the Force Ouvrière. They were demonstrations scrutinized by the Government of Emmanuel Macronwho is confident that it will be an autumn without great turmoil in France despite the fact that many factors are fueling the malaise.

The neighboring country registered in August a inflation of 5.9% —the highest since the early 1980s, although lower than the average for the European Union—, but this was not compensated with salary increases of this type. The minimum wage rose by 2.65%, that of civil servants by 3% and in the private sector the increases were much more modest.

More than 250,000 protesters

With proclamations of “Increase our wages instead of misery” or “Work, work, beyond the age of retirement”, some 40,000 people, according to the unions, participated in the manifestation that toured the streets of southern Paris until ending up in the Place de la Bastille. There were also parades with thousands of demonstrators in places like Marseille, Nantes or Caen or Rouen. A festive atmosphere prevailed in all of them, without major disturbances, such as those that characterized the revolt of the yellow vests. The day had a correct follow-up —the CGT announced more than 250,000 protesters across the country—but far from the massive protests of the winter of 2019/2020, in which millions of French people took to the streets against the pension reform.

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The pandemic of covid-19 it has been like a sleeping pill for the bustling Gallic society. Since then, unions and other groups have not managed to mobilize massively in a country where numerous social movements took place between 2018 and 2020, such as the yellow vests, union protests, marches for the climate, feminists… Macron wants to take advantage of the current situation of demobilization to approve before the end of the year a court reform neoliberal of the retirement system, which will extend the minimum age to 65 years (with 43 contributors). Another controversial measure is also on the exit ramp that will cut compensation for unemployed during periods of economic growth.

Rejection of the pension reform

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“The president does not care about mobilization, the only thing that interests him is to apply his program despite having been elected in poor conditions (in a second round against the far-right Marine LePen), with a record abstention and without adherence to his project”, lamented Olivier, present at the demonstration in Paris, in statements to liberation. “We do not want to negotiate the delay of the retirement age,” he warned. Philippe Martinez, general secretary of the CGT, who questioned the supposed will of the Executive to negotiate with the unions. “If it’s to tell us this is what we want and now do what we say, we won’t be around the table for long.”

Only 21% of French people support raising the minimum retirement age beyond 62, according to a recent poll. Despite this, the Macronist Executive wants to approve this measure before winter, and that does not have an absolute majority in the National Assembly. Macron warned that he is willing to dissolve Parliament if a motion of censure to stop reform. “If the entire opposition unites to adopt a motion of censure and bring down the government, it will leave it up to the French men and women to decide what new majority they want,” Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said on the LCI network.

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