< /p> CGT union chief Philippe Martinez (centre) with a banner during a protest against pension reform in Paris on February 11, 2023.
Paris – In cities across France, the fourth round of demonstrations against the pension reform proposal, which includes raising the retirement limit by two years, is on the agenda today. French media say authorities expect hundreds of thousands of people to attend, but less than a million protesters. Unlike previous mobilizations, today's is not connected with a call for a strike by railway workers.
According to Reuters, the strike limited rail traffic, school classes were disrupted and the distribution of oil products stopped. Unions again called for people to take to the streets in large numbers, and protest marches were held in dozens of cities including Nice, Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes and also in Paris. In the capital, protesters, many of them young, marched from the Opera House carrying banners with slogans such as “Save your pension” and “Tax billionaires, not grannies”.
The Ministry of the Interior announced in the early evening that across France, the police recorded 757,000 protesters. The first two strikes against the pension reform, on January 19 and 31, attracted a little over a million people to the streets each time, according to the police. The CGT trade union headquarters today reported the participation of “almost two million” people, although even in its case it was a lower total than last week, when it spoke of 2.8 million protesters.
The current pension system is “a democratic convenience in the sense that it is a French peculiarity that other countries envy,” said protester Anissa Saudemont, 29, who works in the media. “I have the impression that with high inflation, unemployment, the war in Ukraine and climate change, the government should focus on something else,” the woman added.
Today's protests were mostly peaceful, but the French media also reported on disturbances. In the city of Rennes, police arrested 13 people after a march there resulted in a confrontation between several dozen participants and law enforcement officers. In Paris, at least 17 people ended up in custody in connection with the vandalism of three businesses and the burning of trash cans.
State carrier SNCF said services were severely disrupted on rail across the country today, including high-speed trains and international services to Britain and Switzerland. The strike also disrupted the operation of the Paris metro. The proportion of strikers in the monitored sectors was lower than a week ago, reports Le Monde. It fell from 36 percent to 25 percent at SNCF, and from 26 to 14 percent among teachers. The strike at the state energy company EDF was avoided without power outages.
The French spend the most years in retirement on average of any country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and most of them do not want to give it up, according to surveys. According to the government, the reform is necessary to keep the pension system in the black. “The pension system is unprofitable and we care about the system, we have to save it,” Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt told RMC radio station.
The head of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said according to Reuters that Macron, by insisting on a very unpopular reform in plays a “dangerous game” in times of high inflation. The government's proposal, presented on January 10, has been discussed since Monday at the plenary session of the lower house of the French parliament, where it does not yet have a certain majority support. Nevertheless, the government has chosen a procedure to implement its plan, which, under certain conditions, allows the proposal to be introduced even without the consent of the parliament.
In the meantime, trade unionists promise to continue the protests and plan further mobilization for Saturday.