This was another day of the general strike in France. Millions are striking against a retirement reform which is being pushed forward by President Macron.
Railwaymen, teachers, firefighters and ambulance doctors are taking part in the strike, among others. Most trains did not go on routes, schools are closed and the metro in Paris is not functioning. Trade unions are estimating the number of protesters on city streets at 1.5 million, while the Ministry of Interior reports that about 800,000 people took part in the protests. The riots in the French capital led the policemen to use tear gas on the public.
”I am hoping that the reform will lower the retirement age than what it is now. Otherwise, customs officials will work until the age of 70 in the future”- says Francois Schellenbaum.
”We are worried about future generations. This reform is about guaranteeing a good pension system, with good pensions adequate to our national wealth”- says Jean- Michel Blanquer, French Minister of Education.
The strike completely paralyzed Paris and other cities. The city is filled with huge traffic jams, because in the face of the public transport strike, many people decided to drive to work in their cars.
”I rented a car because I wasn’t sure if I could get a train from Montpellier to Narbonne, which is where my car is”- says French citizen.
”It’s too complicated to take a bus or subway, as one line is open and the other is not. I decided to walk instead”- says French citizen.
Railway employees are expected to end the strike yesterday. Meanwhile, the trade unions operating in the Paris bus and metro have announced that their protest will last until Monday.
”I heard President Emmanuel Macron say that we are moving to the second phase, which is to involve more gestures aimed at society. On the other hand, despite the strike of many professional groups, the same response is heard: “I will change nothing.” It is high time for this to change, it’s time for the president to listen to us” – says Philippe Martinez, Leader of the General Confederation of Labour(CGT).
President Macron is pushing a reform to simplify the French pension system, which includes over 40 different plans, with different retirement ages and different levels of benefits. The current system allows railway workers, sailors, and even dancers from the Paris Opera ballet, among others, retire even ten years earlier than most other professional groups.