Pension protests persist
Faced with historic and unrelenting protests against proposed reforms to France’s pension system, President Emmanuel Macron’s government has temporarily withdrawn the proposed changes that would have seen the full benefit retirement age raise from 62 to 64, among other significant changes. Unions claim this means people will be made to work longer for lower pensions, and that weakening France’s pension system now will leave it open to further diminishment in the future.
The government’s concession, on 11 January, came after teachers, nurses and lawyers joined the marathon transport strike that had been crippling the country for the previous five weeks. Electrical unions have used their considerable power and influence to express solidarity with striking workers, with strategic power outages affecting facilities in the lead up to Christmas, including the infamously anti-worker employer Amazon. The strikes have also touched upon France’s cultural exports. The Louvre – the world’s most visited museum – was targeted by strikers, who prevented visitors from entering the museum. Ballet dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet, opera singers, technicians, and artisans also joined the strikes, as the proposed changes prove themselves to be almost universally unpopular.
The rail stoppage, which began on 5 December, is France’s longest strike since 1968, and the longest continuous train strike since the creation of the national rail service in the 1930s. Unsatisfied with the proposal’s temporary withdrawal, union leaders urged workers to remain strong and the strike has continued, with protestors demanding the pension reform plan be scrapped entirely, rather than be placed upon the shelf to be reintroduced at a later time. While it is unclear if they will be successful in the total abolition of Macron’s broad reform plan, these historic strikes have managed already to extract major concessions from the French government, including pay rises to teachers equalling around $1000 a month. (Source: New York Times)