For the fourth time in less than a month, the French are called upon to mobilize against an unpopular pension reform wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, who called for the “spirit of responsibility”, stoking the anger of the unions.
The latter hope for a large crowd for this new day of action organized on a Saturday to allow employees who cannot strike to participate in the demonstrations.
“Exceeding the million demonstrators would be a great success,” said Laurent Berger, boss of the reformist union CFDT. According to police sources, a participation of between 600,000 and 800,000 people is expected, including 90,000 to 120,000 in Paris.
Since the beginning of the protest against this flagship reform of President Macron, currently being discussed in the National Assembly in a tense climate, the unions have welcomed a very strong mobilization, even if the number of demonstrators and strikers has declined during from the final day of action on Tuesday.
Between 757,000 and 2 million demonstrators were counted according to the sources, against between 1.27 and more than 2.5 million on January 31.
The heart of the reform, providing for a decline in the legal retirement age from 62 to 64, is rejected by a majority of French people, according to opinion polls.
The government is showing its determination to carry out this reform. Over time, he accepted some modifications without calling into question the heart of the project.
Comments by Emmanuel Macron in Brussels on Friday sparked a strong reaction from the unions.
In a rare speech on this burning subject, the president called on the organizers of the protest to maintain their “spirit of responsibility” so that “disagreements can be expressed, but in calm, respect for property and people. , and with a desire not to block the life of the rest of the country”.
“Excuse me, but damn it, weren’t we responsible from the start? “, irritated Laurent Berger, while the mobilizations have taken place so far without notable incidents. He pointed to a form of “contempt”.
“We could return the courtesy to him”, judged for his part the boss of the CGT union Philippe Martinez. “When there is such discontent in the country and we have a spirit of responsibility, well, we listen,” he added.
The inter-union, which has eight organizations, wants to register the movement in the long term and called for two other days of action on February 16 and March 7.
Martinez spoke of possible “harder, more numerous, more massive and renewable strikes”.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, on the front line, again defended the reform on Thursday, stressing its need to “ensure the future of the pension system” for the French population.
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 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 through an increase in the value of small pensions.
The government does not have an absolute majority in the National Assembly to have its project adopted. He is counting in particular on the support of the traditional right, but this is not certain at this stage.
In the hemicycle, the examination of the text since the beginning of the week by the deputies has so far only given rise to repetitive debates and invectives.
“It would be good for Parliament to become something other than a fairground,” slipped Laurent Berger, calling for “debating the substance”.
The left opposition tabled thousands of amendments.
The unions want to strike a blow
The unions hope to mobilize very strongly on Saturday, on the occasion of the fourth day of action against the pension reform, and to finally be heard by the executive, busy advancing the reform in Parliament.
It is “an extremely important meeting”, declared on Friday on franceinfo the general secretary of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, calling “everyone to go to the demonstrations”.
It is the first time since the beginning of the movement that the unions have organized demonstrations on Saturday, “the opportunity for a certain number of employees who could not mobilize during the week” to do so, underlined Saturday on RMC Marie Buisson , general secretary of the CGT Education, because “three days of strike is three days less salary”.
So Juliette Achigar, 47, payroll manager who will demonstrate in Bayonne: “I hesitated to go there on Tuesday, but I lost a day of work and financially it was not manageable”, she explained. at AFP.
“To exceed the million demonstrators would be a great success,” said Mr. Berger. According to police sources, a participation of between 600,000 and 800,000 people is expected, including 90,000 to 120,000 in Paris, where the parade will go from Republic to Nation.
10,000 police forces will be mobilized throughout France, including 4,500 in Paris.
Without a call for a strike, the RATP and SNCF networks should operate normally, allowing everyone to come and demonstrate… or go on vacation, the unions stressed.