In France, strikes and protests against pension reforms have escalated. Opponents of the reform blocked individual train stations, roads and part of Charles-de-Gaulle Airport in Paris. Trains and flights were again canceled due to the strikes. High schools and universities were partly closed. Due to the ongoing blockade of oil depots, 15 percent of the petrol stations in France were missing at least one fuel.
The mood at protests in Bordeaux, Nantes and Rennes was therefore heated. The police also used tear gas in Paris, and some demonstrators were arrested. 12,000 police officers were on duty. The authorities spoke of almost 1.09 million demonstrators nationwide. According to the CGT union, 3.5 million people took part.
The days of strikes and protests had been mostly peaceful for weeks. In recent days, spontaneous demonstrations have become increasingly violent. “We want non-violent actions that respect goods and people,” demanded Laurent Berger of the CFDT union.
The protests are directed against the gradual increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 and the actions of the center government under President Emmanuel Macron. With the reform, she wants to close an imminent gap in the pension fund. The dispute intensified a week ago because the government pushed the relevant law through the National Assembly without a vote. Two motions of no confidence in the government failed on Monday evening. The reform has thus been passed. It is now before the Constitutional Council for examination. It is still unclear when this decision will be made.
Macron wants the reform to come into force by the end of the year. Currently, the retirement age in France is 62 years. In fact, retirement begins later on average: those who have not paid in long enough to receive a full pension work longer. At the age of 67 there is then a pension without a deduction, regardless of how long it has been paid in – the government wants to keep this, even if the number of years of contributions required for a full pension is to increase more quickly. She wants to increase the monthly minimum pension to around 1,200 euros.
The President defended the controversial reform in a television interview on Wednesday. The reform is very difficult. “We ask people to make an effort. It’s never popular.” But: “Between the polls and the short-term and the general interest of the country, I choose the general interest of the country.” For his appearance, Macron received harsh criticism from the opposition and the unions. The dispute over the reform has weakened the government and Macron. The government barely survived one of the votes of no confidence. Their approach to passing the reform is seen as a sign of weakness.
sti/ww (afp, dpa)