France: Pension strike has almost completely paralyzed public transport in Paris, only the two fully automated metro lines 1 and 14 drove trouble-free. The French president follows the action with “calm and determination,” says the Élysée Palace. The government spokeswoman does not even want to know how many protested on the “Black Thursday” against the planned pension reform. “We have set no threshold from which we must act”, she tells journalists attended by foot, bike or scooter to the presidential palace.
Everywhere in the country, public life comes to a standstill. In Marseilles, Lyon, Toulouse, Rennes, Bordeaux, Montpellier, Clermont-Ferrand and Nantes, buses and trams drop out, protesting through the city center. Only one in ten long-distance trains leaves. Flights were canceled, and in some regions, fuel for car and truck were in short supply after the protesters blocked the fuel depots.
About half of the teachers reach the educational institutions, numerous preschools remain closed, and there were reports of strolling demonstrations in the police commissariats. Transport and Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that the Paris transport companies RATP and the state railway SNCF goes on this Friday.
“France witnessed biggest demonstrations after Yellow Vests”
The worry about retirements has pushed the French “republic of officials” into the streets. The protest in France, which unlike in Germany has the right to strike, has stormed the government’s plan to abolish the 42 special regimes and replace them with a single system.
Railroad workers, teachers, firefighters, police officers, state hospital workers and garbage collectors want to prevent their pension scheme from change. That the reform was an election promise by Emmanuel Macron, who is just as little interested as the fact that the bill on pension reform is not yet available. Next week, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to introduce the proposed legislation, the government spokeswoman stressed again on Thursday. She avoids the word preventive strike and says: “We respect social mobilization”.
At the North Station in Paris, an improvised band with trumpet sounds and beats of drums plays on Macron’s “start-up nation”. Protesters wave red flags from the left-wing CGT union, as if the reform-minded CFDT has not yet outranked them. The banners say, “Social insecurity kills,” and “Macron is finished”.
The protest march in the capital of France was led by CGT boss Philippe Martinez. He threatens that this is only the beginning, “we can strike for a very long time”. The CFDT chairman Laurent Berger has not come, he rejects the strike, even if many of its members do not agree. The CFDT has been the largest union in France since the end of 2018, but the government has so far failed to win them over as an ally in the pension reform project.
According to BFM-TV, protesters threw stones at police officers, the officials reacted with tear gas. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had warned against riots and asked all business people in the area between North Station and Nation Square to close their shops and protect the shop windows. 6000 police officers are on duty, even if they are tired of having to hold their heads in all social conflicts.
At that time, however, the unions had a clear goal, they wanted to bring down a government reform project. The protesters fight against the government’s nebulous intentions. The Eiffel Tower, which was enveloped in fog for hours, looked like the symbol of a disoriented nation. The Paris landmark was also closed, and a sign at the entrance read: Long live the strike.