Strikes Paralyse France
On the second major day of protests against the planned pension reform, strikes paralysed large parts of public life in France. Trains, buses and flights were cancelled nationwide, and many schools had no lessons.
The employees of the energy company EDF shut down electricity production in protest, but this has not yet led to power outages. A large part of the workforce also stopped work in the refineries and fuel depots of the energy group TotalEnergies.
Demonstrations are planned at about 200 locations today. About 11,000 security forces are supposed to prevent riots, 4,000 in Paris alone.
The unions are calling for the planned increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 to be abandoned. President Emmanuel Macron had stressed the night before that the reform was necessary “to save the system”. The pension fund is currently showing a plus, but according to estimates by experts, it will slip into a deficit of 14 billion euros by 2030. The reform is therefore “inevitable,” said Macron, referring to the other EU countries where the retirement age is already significantly higher.
According to a poll published Tuesday, Macron’s approval ratings fell five percentage points due to the pension reform debate to just 36 per cent. Almost two-thirds of the population blamed the government for the strikes and the paralysis of public life, according to the Odoxa Institute poll. For Macron, pension reform is one of the most important projects of his second and final term.
Experts expect that the protest movement could expand. At the first attempt at reform in 2019, France had experienced the longest strikes since the student protests in 1968.
In addition to raising the retirement age, the reform also includes increasing the minimum pension to EUR 1,200. In addition, the employment of seniors should be promoted. On the first day of protests on January 19, more than a million people took to the streets.
Image by Faces of the World (Flickr)/Attribution 2.0 (CC BY 2.0)