Unions Urge Macron to “Hit Pause” as French Strikes Escalate

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Protesters from the CGT labour union attend a demonstration as part of the tenth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government's pension reform in Nantes, France, March 28, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Millions of French People Take to the Streets to Protest Against Proposed Pension Reforms By Macron

PARIS – France has been rocked by a new wave of strikes and protests as millions of people take to the streets to show their opposition to the proposed pension reforms by President Emmanuel Macron. The plan to raise the legal retirement age by two years to 64 has been met with widespread anger and frustration, with demonstrations turning increasingly violent.

The protests have been largely peaceful since they began in mid-January, but have evolved into broader anti-Macron sentiment in recent weeks. The government’s decision to use special constitutional powers to bypass parliament on a final vote on the pensions bill has only added fuel to the fire, with scenes of chaos reminiscent of the yellow-vest movement’s unrest during Macron’s first term as president.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has warned of a “very serious risk to public order” at demonstrations expected in cities including Paris, Lyon, Nantes and Bordeaux, and authorities have deployed a record 13,000 police to maintain order.

The transport, aviation, and energy sectors have been hit hard by the strikes, with motorways blocked and fuel stations running low on supplies. The entrances to around 20 universities have also been blocked, according to the student union UNEF.

Read Also: French President Emmanuel Macron Faces Political Crisis as Protests Escalate

Protesters hold a banner which reads "No to the pension reform" during a demonstration as part of the tenth day of nationwide strikes and protests against the pension reform by Macron in Nice, France, 28 March 2023. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
Protesters hold a banner which reads “No to the pension reform” during a demonstration as part of the tenth day of nationwide strikes and protests against the pension reform by Macron in Nice, France, 28 March 2023. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

France’s Retirement Age Increase Sparks Nationwide Protests

Laurent Berger, head of France’s largest union, the CFDT, has urged Macron to show “a gesture of appeasement” and appoint mediators to the conflict. Berger’s remarks were echoed by Philippe Martinez of the CGT union.

Macron, who promised to deliver pension reforms in both of his presidential campaigns, says the move is necessary to keep the country’s finances in balance. However, unions and opposition parties say there are other ways to achieve this.

Protesters holding French CGT and Sud Culture Solidaires labour unions flags stand in front of the glass Pyramid to block the entrance of the Louvre museum to protest against the French government’s pension reform, in Paris, France, France, March 27, 2023. REUTERS/Marco Trujillo

As the protests continue, police are preparing for more potential violence. Laurent Nunez, president of Paris’s Prefecture de Police, has warned that security agencies believe more people intent on violence could join the protests, and that police must be ready.

In conclusion, the ongoing protests and strikes in France reflect a broader frustration with Macron’s policies and have brought to the forefront the debate on pension reforms. With both sides unwilling to budge, it remains to be seen how the situation will be resolved. – Reuters