More than a million demonstrators, new mobilization on January 31

More than a million demonstrators, strikes followed at school, in energy or transport: the unions succeeded on Thursday in strongly mobilizing against the pension reform, and have already announced a new day of action, on January 31, to make the government back down.

“More than two million” people demonstrated in more than 200 processions, including around 400,000 in Paris, said the CGT, while the Ministry of the Interior counted 1.12 million demonstrators, including 80,000 in the capital.

A level of mobilization higher than that of December 5, 2019: at the start of the protest against the previous pension reform project, the police had counted 806,000 demonstrators in France, the CGT 1.5 million.

Building on this success, the eight major trade union centers (CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, Unsa, Solidaires and FSU) are planning a second day of action, set for Thursday evening on January 31.

Before this date, the unions and several youth movements are calling for “multiplying actions”, especially around January 23, the day the bill is presented to the Council of Ministers.

“The government must give up” raising the legal age to 64 in 2030 and the accelerated extension of the contribution period to 43 from 2027, said the inter-union in a statement read to the press.

Well-stocked processions

“Retirement before arthritis”, “metro, job, cellar”… From Calais to Nice, well-stocked processions showed a “no” to the extension of the legal retirement age, against a backdrop of widespread social discontent in a inflationary environment.

A few clashes, tensions or damage were reported in Paris, Lyon and Rennes, but the day of action was generally calm.

The processions brought together many public or private workers fearing to be “worn out” or “broken” at 64, such as Nathalie Etchegaray, 48, childminder in Orléans. “I’ve been working for 25 years, I’ve never gone on strike before. The trigger is to see our older colleagues who have pain everywhere”.

“64 years old, I find it stupid, at this age, we no longer have the same reflexes as at 20,” explained in Paris Catherine Dubé, 52, job seeker.

The figures from the authorities quickly attested to a very significant mobilization: 36,000 people in Toulouse, 26,000 in Marseille, 25,000 in Nantes, 19,000 in Clermont-Ferrand, 17,000 in Rennes… They were 23,000 in Lyon, where the police suffered a few projectiles and made 17 arrests, according to the prefecture.

In Paris, clashes erupted between police and demonstrators near Bastille, with the throwing of projectiles and the use of tear gas. According to the police headquarters, 38 people were arrested.

The Minister of Labor, Olivier Dussopt, admitted that the mobilization had been “significant”. Deeming it “normal” that a pension reform “raises concerns”, he indicated that it was necessary to “respond” and “listen to the messages”.

On the user side, those who do not use telework have had to deal with public transport in dribs and drabs.

At the SNCF, which has a rate of strikers of 46.3%, traffic was “very seriously disrupted”. The Paris metro was also “very disrupted”.

“Let’s keep talking”

Many public services were affected. 29.5% of strikers were counted in the state civil service by their supervisory ministry. Public audiovisual programs were also affected.

In education, the FSU union counted 70% of striking teachers in schools and 65% in colleges and high schools. The ministry figures for its part the mobilization at 42% in the primary and 34% in the secondary.

Traffic was interrupted at the port of Calais, the first in France for travellers.

On the refinery side, the movement was followed by 70 to 100% of TotalEnergies employees depending on the site. Fuel shipments were blocked, but work was to resume Friday morning, unless otherwise decided at any local general meetings.

EDF management has counted 50% of strikers out of its total workforce, a figure up from the mobilization of December 5, 2019.

From Barcelona where he was taking part in a Franco-Spanish summit, President Emmanuel Macron assured of the “determination” of the executive to bring about a “fair and responsible” reform.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne hailed the “good conditions” in which the demonstrations took place. “Allowing opinions to be expressed is essential for democracy. Let us continue to debate and convince,” she urged.

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