French workers have set the example with mass strikes and protests
A day of strikes and protests kicked off in France on Thursday 19 January. They’re set to disrupt transport and schooling across the country as workers oppose a deeply unpopular pensions overhaul.
The changes presented by president Emmanuel Macron’s government last week would raise the retirement age for most people from 62 to 64, and increase the years of contributions required for a full pension.
France’s trade unions immediately called for a mass mobilisation. This is the first time they have united in such a way since 12 years ago, when the retirement age was hiked to 62 from 60.
Workers in France signalled the start of their resistance with burning torches as they set out in defence of their pensions:
Workers with torches in France to announce tomorrow's general strike to defend pensions pic.twitter.com/SUzyY51EUu
— Eric Blanc (@_ericblanc) January 18, 2023
French worker’s militancy is well-known – not least when compared to British workers. However, the UK has seen waves of strikes recently. Many people here seem to have been inspired by the idea of bigger, more coordinated action:
So France has a general strike due to Macron wanting to raise retirement age, from 62 to 64, we need a general strike to get our country back out of the Tory hands, return retirement to 60 for all and decent pay rises for all. #GeneralElectionN0W #GeneralStrike
— Richard MS (@rmustonensmith) January 19, 2023
One commenter suggested the use of some of the militantly disruptive French tactics employed over the years:
We need a #GeneralStrike NOW.
Why are Brits so PASSIVE when their govt is so obviously SHAFTING them?
If this was France there'd be cattle on Paris streets, lorries blocking roads, and students revolting.
— MikeC (@MikeC_Bristol) January 12, 2023
The scale of the strikes, even outside major cities, impressed another Twitter user:
This is the scene from just one town in France. A general strike to protest against the rise of pensionable age to 64(!). https://t.co/7eXhgN9gSi
— Elena de la Quintaine (@EdelaQuintaine) January 19, 2023
The British labour movement – distinct from the Labour Party – is in a moment of intense action. Many industries, like nursing and teaching, are currently fighting for better conditions, and some are actually winning against their tight-fisted bosses.
There is still more to do the advance the struggle here in the UK. We could do much worse than look to our French counterparts for examples of passionate protest and mass resistance. After all, at its very best, the workers’ struggle should have no borders
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ Jeanne Menjelout, cropped to 770 x 403, licenced under CC BY 2.0.
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