France’s strike movement against the pensions change is continuing

Photo from Getty Images: Workers take to the streets of Paris on 17 December

Contributed by Ben Wilson

The French strike movement against the Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to dismantle the public sector pension system has been going on for weeks and promises to continue through the Christmas period.

This has seen ongoing disruption, including to France’s rail system. Masses of teachers have walked out of schools. Hospital workers are out and oil refinery workers have set up pickets to block supplies.

Even opera singers are out and sung a collective aria on the way out. The Eiffel Tower has been closed. The Yellow Vests have joined.

Strike action has been augmented with constant marches in the streets of Paris and other centres.

Police move in to disperse union march on 17 December

Video from Ruptly

Police have used tear gas and stun grenades on those who refused an order to disperse, although some of the police have reportedly joined the marches.

A new twist has been in the electricity industry, where workers in power plants and distribution networks are taking action on the job that has left 150,000 businesses and homes without power.

Justification for this sort of action, according to the head of the General Confederation of Lasbour (CGT) Philippe Martinez, is that that it shows how important the contribution of power workers is. Without them there is no electricity.  The CGT is the biggest union federation participating in the strike.

IThe strike has been joined by other union federation, including the conservative French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT).

Philippe Martinez

The rolling strikes have so far cost a major fall in business turnover. Despite the inconvenience caused, polls suggest that the strikers have the support of  62 percent of the population.

The trouble has been causes by a move to raise the retirement age and cur back pension payments, by replacing the existing schemes by a leaner single national pension system.

It is true that the French have enjoyed much earlier retirement age ages higher pensions than is the case in other countries. But those who denigrate this leave out that these are rights that were hard fought for over the years, and threat they haven’t brought about economic ruin. France’s is the second biggest economy in Europe.

To many, the pension reform is the last straw, in a process that has seen the slide back of benefits and government services across the board, at a time when jobs are getting harder to find and the costs of living are rising.

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