Get 40% Off
⚠ Earnings Alert! Which stocks are poised to surge?
See the stocks on our ProPicks radar. These strategies gained 19.7% year-to-date.
Unlock full list

Huge crowds march across France, raising pressure against Macron's pension reform

Published 01/31/2023, 02:35 AM
Updated 01/31/2023, 02:23 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO-Police officers clash with protesters as they demonstrate against the French government's pension reform plan in Paris, France, January 19, 2023. Adrien AdcaZz via REUTERS.

By Antony Paone, Dominique Vidalon and Ingrid Melander

PARIS (Reuters) - Huge crowds marched across France on Tuesday to say "non" to President Emmanuel Macron's plan to make people work longer before retirement, with pressure in the streets intensifying against a government that says it will stand its ground.

Opinion polls show a substantial majority of the French oppose increasing the retirement age to 64 from 62, a move Macron says is "vital" to ensuring the viability of the pension system.

The French Interior ministry said that a total of 1.272 million people took part in the protests nationwide, up slightly from the first nationwide demonstration on Jan 19. In Paris, a total of 87,000 people marched, compared to 80,000 on Jan. 19, it added.

"It's better than on the 19th. ... It's a real message sent to the government, saying we don't want the 64 years," Laurent Berger, who leads CFDT, France's largest union, said ahead of the Paris march.

Union leaders at a joint news conference at the end of the march said they would organise more strikes and demonstrations against the reform on Feb. 7 and 11.

Marching behind banners reading "No to the reform" or "We won't give up," many said they would take to the streets as often as needed for the government to back down.

"For the president, it's easy. He sits in a chair ... he can work until he's 70, even," bus driver Isabelle Texier said at a protest in Saint-Nazaire on the Atlantic coast. "We can't ask roof layers to work until 64, it's not possible."

Striking workers disrupted French refinery deliveries, public transport and schools, even if, in several sectors, fewer walked off the job on Tuesday than on the 19th as a cost-of-living crisis makes it harder to skip a day's pay.

MORE STRIKES?

For unions, the challenge will be maintaining walkouts at a time when high inflation is eroding salaries.

A union source said some 36.5% of SNCF rail operator workers were on strike by midday - down nearly 10% from Jan. 19 - even if disruption to train traffic was largely similar.

On the rail networks, only one in three high-speed TGV trains were operating and even fewer local and regional trains. Services on the Paris metro were thrown into disarray.

Utility group EDF (EPA:EDF) said 40.3% of workers were on strike, down from 44.5%. The education ministry also said fewer teachers walked off their job.

Unions and companies at times disagreed on whether this strike was more or less successful than the previous one. For TotalEnergies, fewer workers at its refineries had downed tools, but the CGT said there were more.

In any case, French power supply was down by about 5% or 3.3 gigawatts (GW) as workers at nuclear reactors and thermal plants joined the strike, EDF data showed.

And TotalEnergies said deliveries of petroleum products from its French sites had been halted, but customers' needs were met.

'BRUTAL'

The government has said that pushing the retirement age to 64 is "non-negotiable."

And with the reform posing a test of Macron's ability to push through change now that he has lost his working majority in parliament, some felt resigned amid bargaining with conservative opponents who are quite open to pension reform.

"There's no point in going on strike. This bill will be adopted in any case," said 34-year-old Matthieu Jacquot, who works in the luxury sector.

The pension system reform would yield an additional 17.7 billion euros ($19.18 billion) in annual pension contributions, according to Labour Ministry estimates. Unions say there are other ways to raise revenue, such as taxing the super-rich or asking employers or well-off pensioners to contribute more.

"This reform is unfair and brutal," said Luc Farre, the secretary general of the civil servants' UNSA union.

© Reuters. A protester throws a projectile amid tear gas during clashes near the Invalides during a demonstration against French government's pension reform plan in Paris as part of a national strike and protests in France, January 31, 2023.  REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

At a local level, some announced "Robin Hood" operations unauthorised by the government. In the southwestern Lot-et-Garonne area, the local CGT trade union branch cut power to several speed cameras and disabled smart power meters.

"When there is such a massive opposition, it would be dangerous for the government not to listen," said Mylene Jacquot, secretary general of CFDT's civil servants branch.

Latest comments

Maybe the french population should start checking the pension age in other european countries and would perhaps relax, in some areas of europe pension age is set to 72 years. Problem for any society is that we all live longer thus claiming more pensions, money the governments dont have if they want to keep a stabil healthcare, education and infrastructure.
Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
© 2007-2024 - Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.