Strike action in France enters 36th day as workers refuse to back down

Ed Sykes

Rail workers, teachers, doctors, lawyers and others have joined a nationwide day of protests and strikes in France to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to change the country’s pension system. Street protests were staged in Paris and other French cities, with railway strikes entering their sixth week. It was the 36th day of strike action, which Jacobin has called “the longest wave of continuous strikes in contemporary French history”.

As US economist Richard D Wolff explained in December, people in France have united to oppose a worsening in their retirement conditions. As he said:

The mass of the French people are letting the government know they won’t take it.

The government and unions are currently participating in talks about the changes.

The Elysee presidential palace was barricaded as protesters were due to head towards the area.

Strikers march on the Place de la Bastille during a demonstration in Paris
Strikers march on the Place de la Bastille during a demonstration in Paris (Francois Mori/AP)

The Eiffel Tower also shut as employees joined the protest movement.

Unions have called on workers to block road access to major ports, including in the southern city of Marseille.

A protester in a yellow vest sits on top of a statue during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France
A protester in a yellow vest sits on top of a statue during a demonstration in Marseille (Daniel Cole/AP)

Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, said “there are many people on strike” yet the government does not appear “willing to discuss and take into account the opinion of unions”.

So far, the government is sticking to its plan to raise the full retirement age from 62 to 64, the most criticised part of the proposals.

A protester holds a flare during a demonstration in Paris
A protester holds a flare during a demonstration in Paris (Thibault Camus/AP)

Unions fear people will have to work longer for lower pensions, and polls suggest at least half of French people still support the strikes.

Eric Mettling, who joined the Yellow Vests (Gilets Jaunes) at the start of their movement, said the general strike had brought together social movements across France in a manner unprecedented in recent memory to denounce “the social crisis”. One activist previously told The Canary that the longstanding yellow-vest protests have represented a “deep critique of modern capitalist society”.

Featured image and additional content via Press Association

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us