- The reform will raise the retirement age from 62 to 64
- Schools, transportation networks and refinery deliveries have been affected
- Macron: Reform is vital to ensure the continuity of the pension system
PARIS (Reuters) – Strikers disrupted French refinery shipments, public transport and schools on Tuesday, the second day of nationwide protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to make people work longer before retiring.
Huge crowds marched in cities across France to denounce the reform, which raised the retirement age by two years to 64 and is a test of Macron’s ability to push through change now that he has lost his working majority in parliament.
On the rail networks, only one in three high-speed TGV trains and fewer local and regional trains were operating. Services on the Paris metro were thrown into chaos.
Demonstrating behind signs reading “No to reform” or “We will not surrender,” many said they would take to the streets as often as needed until the government backed down.
“We won’t drive until I’m 64!” bus driver Isabelle Texier said at a protest in Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast.
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“For a president, it’s easy. He sits in a chair… he can work until he’s 70,” she said. “We can’t ask the roof layers to work up to 64, it’s not possible.”
After Jan. 19, when more than a million people took to the streets on the first nationwide strike day, unions said preliminary data from protests across the country showed a higher turnout.
“It’s better than it was on the 19th… It’s a real message sent to the government, saying we don’t want 64s,” Laurent Berger, who leads CFDT, France’s largest federation, said ahead of the Paris rally.
Opinion polls show that a large majority of the French oppose reform, but Macron intends to stick to his position. On Monday, he said the reform was “vital” to ensuring the continuity of the pension system.
Some felt resigned amid bargaining between Macron’s ruling coalition and conservative opponents who are more open to pension reform than the left.
“There is no point in going on strike. This law will be adopted anyway,” said Mathieu Jacot, 34, who works in the luxury sector.
Less stroke execution
For unions, who were likely to announce more industrial measures later in the day, the challenge will be sustaining strikes at a time when high inflation is eroding payroll.
Although protest numbers appeared to be rising, some preliminary data showed a drop in participation in the strike on Tuesdays from January 19.
A union source said that about 36.5% of the SNCF’s rail operator workers were on strike by midday — down about 10% from January 19 — even if the disruption to train traffic was broadly similar.
EDF Utilities Group (EDF.PA) He said 40.3% of workers were on strike, down from 44.5%.
Unions and companies sometimes disagreed about whether this strike was more or less successful than the previous one. for TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA)There have been fewer workers at its refineries who have stopped using tools, but CGT said there are more.
And on a local level, some have declared “Robin Hood” operations not authorized by the government. In the southwest region of Lot-et-Garonne, the local CGT union branch has cut power to several speed cameras and disabled smart energy meters.
“When there is massive opposition, it would be dangerous for the government not to listen,” said Mylene Jacot, general secretary of the CFDT’s civil servants branch.
According to estimates by the Labor Ministry, the pension reform will bring in an additional 17.7 billion euros ($19.18 billion) in annual pension contributions. Unions say there are other ways to raise revenue, such as taxing the super-rich or asking employers or well-to-do retirees to contribute more.
“This reform is unfair and brutal,” said Luke Farr, Secretary General of the UNSA Civil Servants Union.
EDF data showed that French energy supplies fell by about 5%, or 3.3 gigawatts, as workers at nuclear reactors and thermal plants joined the strike.
TotalEnergies said shipments of petroleum products from its French sites had stopped, but customer needs were being met.
The government made some concessions while drafting the legislation. Macron originally wanted to set the retirement age at 65, while the government also promised a minimum pension of 1,200 euros per month.
Additional reporting by Sybil de la Hamid, Forest Crelin, Benjamin Mallet, Stéphane Mahe, Benoit van Overstraeten, Lee Thomas, Michel Rose, Bertrand Bussy; Written by Ingrid Melander and Richard Love; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Mark Heinrichs
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