after a record mobilization, the unions announce two new dates

“I don’t want to leave at 64”: from Belfort to Bayonne, a record number of opponents of pension reform marched on Tuesday to try to roll back the government, under pressure before two new mobilizations next week.

Everywhere in France, the processions displayed the same refusal of the flagship reform of Emmanuel Macron and his postponement of the legal age of departure to 64 years.

According to the unions, more than 2.5 million people marched in the country. The Ministry of the Interior counted half as many, but still more than 1.27 million. More than the first mobilization of January 19, and even more than the historic record of 2010, at the height of the protest against a previous pension reform.

On the strength of this new success, the eight main French unions have decided to extend the social movement. Gathered in the early evening at the headquarters of Force Ouvrière, they called for two new dates of mobilization, Tuesday February 7 and Saturday February 11.

In several large cities, such as Montpellier, Nantes, Rennes or Marseille, the participation was higher than that of the first mobilization of January 19. In Paris, the organizers counted 500,000 demonstrators, when the police headquarters counted 87,000, and the independent firm Occurrence 55,000.

Smaller localities have also shown a resurgence of mobilization, such as Châteauroux, Boulogne-sur-Mer, Sète or Guéret.

“This is one of the biggest events organized in our country for decades,” said Laurent Berger, the number one CFDT, present in the Parisian procession.

The head of government, Elisabeth Borne, admitted at the end of the day that her reform “raises questions and doubts”. “We hear them,” assured the Prime Minister in a tweet.

Two new dates

Among the demonstrators, it was above all concern that dominated. “I don’t want to leave at 64, I’m a kindergarten teacher and it’s impossible to teach until this late. We are always squatting, my knees already hurt, ”explained Sandrine Carré, 52 years old in the Bordeaux procession.

The parades generally took place peacefully, under the surveillance of 11,000 police and gendarmes, including 4,000 in Paris.

Some clashes, however, enamelled the course in the capital, giving rise to 30 arrests, according to the prefecture. Incidents were also reported in Rennes (16 arrests) and Nantes (4 arrests).

The new mobilization dates were announced as the strike was less followed in several key sectors. Starting with the SNCF, where 36.5% of agents stopped work on Tuesday, against 46.3% on the 19th from a union source.

The CGT-Cheminots and SUD-Rail, however, called to stop work on February 7 and 8, a prelude to a renewable notice “from mid-February”. Right during the winter holidays. “We will do everything so that the French who work can take a little deserved rest,” said the Minister of Public Accounts, Gabriel Attal, on TF1.

Fewer strikers

The strike also marked time in National Education, where the ministry counted at midday a quarter of strikers in primary and secondary schools, while the FSU announced 55% of college and high school teachers on strike. .

Fewer strikers also at EDF (40.3% against 44.5% on the 19th, according to management), which did not prevent nightly load reductions in power stations, without however causing cuts.

Exception in this setting, the refineries and oil depots of TotalEnergies have again oscillated between 75% and 100% of strikers according to the CGT, which has already filed a notice from February 6 and does not exclude “a shutdown of the installations” .

Caught between the determination of the street and the virulence of the opposition, the government was again jostled in the National Assembly, where the Minister of Labor, Olivier Dussopt, had to answer a rolling fire of questions. “Rough day for you, you are in a bad position”, launched the communist Pierre Dharéville to him.

While the project has been debated since Monday in committee, Ms. Borne tried to close ranks, assuring before the Macronist deputies that “the majority will be united” on this reform, after having affirmed on Sunday that the decline in age was not “more negotiable”.

Withdrawn on this file, Emmanuel Macron, who plays part of his five-year term on this reform, deemed it “essential” on Monday.

“Mr. Macron is certain to lose,” replied Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI) in Marseille, believing that France was “going through a historic day”.

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