Tuesday, October 31, 2023

France Protests Against Macron’s Pension Reform


France is currently experiencing widespread unrest due to the government’s decision to raise the state pension age. Refinery strikes and demonstrations have been held across the country, with more protests planned in the coming days. The unrest has left President Emmanuel Macron facing his biggest challenge since the Yellow Vests protests in 2018.

TotalEnergies’ refineries and depots have been particularly affected, with 37% of operational staff on strike on Saturday. Rolling strikes have also continued on the railways. The protests have led to clashes between riot police and demonstrators, with 61 people arrested in Paris on Friday evening. As a result, rallies have been banned on the Place de la Concorde and nearby Champs-Elysees due to “serious risks of disturbances to public order”. However, further rallies are still expected in other parts of the city.

Protests have also taken place in towns and cities across France, with regional unions calling for a weekend of demonstrations. The government’s decision to raise the pension age by two years to 64 has been met with criticism from a broad alliance of France’s main unions, who are calling for a U-turn on the changes. A day of nationwide industrial action is planned for Thursday.

The government argues that the changes are necessary to avoid the pension system slipping into deficit and to bring France in line with its European neighbours, where the legal retirement age is typically higher. However, critics argue that the changes are unfair for those who start working at a young age in physically demanding jobs and women who take career breaks to raise children.

The unrest over the past three days has been reminiscent of the Yellow Vests protests, which erupted over high fuel prices and forced Macron into a partial U-turn on a carbon tax. The current protests have been largely peaceful so far, but the growing unrest and rubbish piling up on the streets of Paris due to refuse workers joining in the action has left Macron facing a significant challenge to his authority.

Latest stories