PARIS (AFP) – France’s trade unions headed for a crucial face-off against President Emmanuel Macron yesterday, with fresh strikes and protests planned against a controversial pensions reform that would push back the retirement age for millions.
Unions have vowed to bring the country to a standstill over the proposed changes.
This include raising the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62 and increasing the number of years people have to make contributions for a full pension.
“I call on all the country’s employees, citizens and retirees who are against the pensions reform to come out and protest en masse,” the head of the CFDT union Laurent Berger told the France Inter radio station on Monday.
“The president cannot remain deaf” to the protests, he added. Macron put the plan at the centre of his re-election campaign last year, and his Cabinet said the changes are essential to prevent the pensions system from falling into deficit in coming years.
But they face fierce resistance from both Parliament and the street, with almost two in three people across the country supporting protests against it, according to a poll by the Elabe survey group published on Monday.
“They’re right to be striking,” said a 28-year-old construction worker Ali Toure, as he waited for a delayed RER suburban train at a station north of Paris.
“Manual labour is hard. It’s no big deal if I arrive late for a month, my boss will wait!” he said.
The hard-line CGT union said fuel deliveries from refineries across France had been blocked since yesterday morning, which could see petrol stations running short if the protests continue as unions hope.
“The strike has begun everywhere… with deliveries blocked from all the refineries this morning,” said branch coordinator for the CGT Eric Sellini.
Unions have warned of rolling strikes on public transport that could paralyse parts of the country for weeks on end.