PARIS: On Tuesday, French unions planned new strikes and protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pensions reform, which would delay the retirement age for millions.


To protest the proposed changes, such as increasing the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62 and the number of years people must make contributions for a full pension, unions have threatened a national shutdown.
Laurent Berger, leader of the CFDT union, called for a nationwide strike against the pension reform on Monday on France Inter radio.

The president, he continued, “cannot remain deaf” to the demonstrations.

Macron made the plan a central part of his campaign to be reelected last year, and his government now claims that the reforms are necessary to avoid a pension system deficit in the near future.

In spite of this, they are met with strong opposition in both the legislature and the streets; a recent poll conducted by the Elabe survey group found that 62% of respondents supported protests against the bill.

“They’re right to be striking,” said Ali Toure, a 28-year-old construction worker, as he waited for a delayed RER suburban train at a station north of Paris.

It’s not easy to do manual labor. He proclaimed, “My boss won’t care if I’m a month late.

The radical CGT union claimed on Tuesday that fuel deliveries from refineries across France had been blocked beginning that morning; if the protests continue as unions hope, this could lead to shortages at gas stations.

This morning, Eric Sellini, CGT branch coordinator, announced that “the strike has begun everywhere,” with deliveries being blocked from all refineries.
The unions’ threats of rolling strikes in the public transportation sector could keep large swaths of the country inaccessible for weeks.

A source familiar with the situation told AFP on condition of anonymity that police expect between 1.1 and 1.4 million people to take to the streets in more than 260 locations across the country on Tuesday.

If we were to see a rally on the sixth day since mid-January, that would indicate more opposition than on any of the five days prior.

Official figures show that on January 31, more than 1.27 million people participated in the largest day of demonstrations to date.

Around one hundred protesters have been blocking a national road in the city of Rennes since 1 am, according to the public road information service.

Unions had previously threatened to “bring the country to a standstill” on Tuesday.

A leading trade unionist for refinery workers has threatened to “bring the French economy to its knees,” and only one in five regional and high-speed trains are expected to run.
Faculty members will also participate in the walkouts.
On Monday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on television that while she supported protesters’ rights, she believed a nationwide shutdown would have a disproportionately negative impact on society’s “most fragile” members.

According to the government, the reforms are necessary to prevent the French pension system from entering into severe deficits in the near future.

Macron stated last month that longer hours of work were necessary to maintain the current system.

However, the unions dispute this finding, arguing that moderate increases in payments would ensure the fund’s continued viability. Further, they claim that the proposed measures would have a disproportionately negative impact on early-career workers with low levels of education and training who perform physically demanding jobs.

Five-sixths of those polled by Elabe said they were in favor of rolling strikes, and a similar percentage (59%!) backed the call to bring the country to a halt.

After two weeks of heated debate in the lower house of parliament, which ended without even reaching a vote on raising the retirement age, the bill is now being debated in the upper house.


The Senate debated until after 3 a.m. on Tuesday, with the conservative majority voting down left-wing proposals to fund the pension system. It has been decided that the debate will pick back up at 2:30.

Without using a controversial mechanism that would bypass a parliamentary vote and risk fueling more protests, the centrist government hopes to push through the reform in parliament with help from the right.