The opposition between unions and government continues Tuesday in France, where major demonstrations are again expected against an unpopular pension reform wanted by President Emmanuel Macron.
While one to two million people had marched on January 19 during the first inter-union strike call, the mobilization index promises to be high again against the reform, including the increase in the retirement age. at age 64 is the key measure. A source in the intelligence services expects 1.2 million demonstrators at the national level “in the high range, including 100,000 in Paris”.
“We hope to be at least as many” as on January 19, the secretary general of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said on Tuesday on the BFMTV and RMC channels. “If the Prime Minister has not heard the message, today we will tell her louder, louder and more numerous”.
The first processions started at 10:00 a.m. (09:00 GMT) in Arras (north) or Nice (south).
The strike is closely followed in transport, the traffic being “very strongly disturbed”, with two regional trains out of 10 and 25 to 30% of high-speed trains depending on the axes, according to the national railway company SNCF.
Highly mobilized refineries
At airports, the strike by air traffic controllers is causing major delays and disruptions. In Nice, 18 rotations are canceled out of around 90 usually planned. One in five flights had to be canceled at Paris-Orly.
The strike is very well attended, as expected, in the refineries, in particular those of the giant TotalEnergies which have 75 to 100% of strikers, the CGT said on Tuesday morning.
On the electricity side, the CGT and the website of the public company EDF reported that the strikers had caused production cuts of “nearly 3,000 MW” overnight, the equivalent of three nuclear reactors. But without “any impact” for users, according to the FNME-CGT union.
A national interprofessional strike notice was also filed for the entire public service, where the previous day of action on January 19 had mobilized 28% of strikers among the 2.5 million state employees, according to a number from the ministry.
In schools, the Ministry of National Education counted at midday 26.65% of striking teachers in primary and 25.22% in secondary, down from 19. The SNES-FSU, first secondary school union, figures at 55% the number of college and high school teachers on strike.
” Essential “
The pension reform, a crucial project of Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term, provides for a decline in the legal age from 62 to 64 and an acceleration in the extension of the contribution period.
Despite growing rejection in public opinion, the executive remains firm: Mr. Macron deemed the reform “indispensable” on Monday evening, after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne who had estimated that the postponement of the legal age of departure to 64 years was “no longer negotiable”.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who foresees 11,000 police and gendarmes mobilized everywhere in France on Tuesday to supervise the demonstrators, accuses the left-wing parties of “marching” the debate to “systematically prevent the government from moving forward”.
“Mr. Macron is certain to lose,” assured Jean-Luc Mélenchon, herald of the radical left, on Tuesday, praising the fight of the “people” against “the caste and its government”.
“There is a lot of anger against this reform”, testified a security agent in Marseille (south) who requested anonymity. “Working until you are 64 or older is very, very hard, especially in our professions”.
In the National Assembly, some 7,000 amendments were tabled, including 6,000 by the left, against the reform.
France is one of the European countries where the legal retirement age is the lowest, without the pension systems being completely comparable.
The government has chosen to extend working hours, taken in response to the financial deterioration of pension funds and the aging of the population. He defends his project by calling it a “carrier of social progress”, in particular by upgrading small pensions.