Five days of massive strikes did not shake the Elysee Palace. Therefore, the French trade unions are threatening stronger protests against the proposed pension reform.
On Tuesday, up to 1.4 million French people are expected to take to the streets. The goal is to make France stand still.
– said Philippe Martinez, president of the radical left-wing union CGT in the Journal du Dimanche, we have always said that if necessary we will put on the next gear.
– This applies on Tuesday.
In practice, this means approximately 260 demonstrations, many of them in smaller towns where resistance to proposed changes is strong and where strikes and demonstrations affect daily life more than in larger cities.
According to AFP sources, the police expect between 1.1 million and 1.4 million people to participate, which is equivalent to the largest demonstration so far, on January 31.
To really pull the brakes on France’s emergency, the eight largest unions have put their members on strike and shopkeepers are being told to remain closed. Only every fifth long-distance train will be able to run, and even local trains and the Paris metro will be affected.
But time is running out for the protesters. The proposal has already been debated in the National Assembly and is now in the Senate. Both houses must have voted on the issue by March 26 at the latest.
The reform means raising the French retirement age – one of the lowest in Europe – from 62 to 64 and that the French have to work more years to get a full pension. According to opinion polls in February, two-thirds of the population are skeptical of the changes.
The general retirement age in France was lowered from 65 to 60 in 1982, under President François Mitterrand (the Socialist Party), who had then come to power with the support of the Communist Party.
Since then, there have been repeated attempts to change the legislation—attempts that the French strongly objected to.
In 1995, when the bourgeois Jacques Chirac replaced Mitterrand in the presidency, an attempt was made to introduce a universal pension system and raise the retirement age in the public sector. Millions of French took to the streets and demonstrated for three weeks in what was described as the largest protests in France since the May Revolution of 1968. Pension proposals were withdrawn.
In 2010, it was President Nicolas Sarkozy who wanted to raise the retirement age to 62. That was the last time central trade union organizations made common cause and announced a general strike. Millions took to the streets to protest. The retirement age was raised, though the government agreed to minor concessions.
At the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, major strikes were called in the country against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a radical reform of the pension system. The strikes were the longest since 1968 and were supported by the majority of the French. Ultimately, the plans were shelved, in part due to the covid pandemic.