An estimated 1.28 million took to the streets across France on Tuesday, March 7, against French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 while strikes disrupted transport and schools.
The figure suggests the demonstrations were some of the biggest in decades, slightly higher than the 1.27 million estimated during a previous round of protests against the reform on January 31 which had seen record numbers since the beginning of the protest movement.
The hardline CGT union put the number of protesters at 3.5 million nationwide, a figure it said compared to 2.5 million on January 31.
Unions called for two new days of national protests, one on Saturday, March 11, and the other on March 15, the day when the French Parliament is to convene to discuss the bill in a joint committee.
For the sixth day of action against the reform, unions had said they wanted to bring France to a standstill. The mobilization in the streets was very strong, Laurent Berger, the secretary general of the moderate union CFDT said, describing it as “historic compared to the last 40 or 50 years.”
As in previous demonstrations, Tuesday’s processions were generally calm despite some clashes between some hooded demonstrators and the police in Paris, Nantes, Lyon and Rennes where water cannons were used. In Paris, 22 people were arrested. In Paris, figures vary from 700,000 according to the CGT to 81,000 for the Interior Ministry.
Only one in five regional and high-speed trains ran, however, and the Paris metro system operated with a skeletal schedule. Rubbish began piling up in the capital after garbage collectors walked off the job.
The rates of strikers remained slightly below the best scores recorded since the beginning of the movement, among railway workers (39% against 46.3% on January 19) as well as teachers and at utility EDF (47.65% of employees on strike according to management, against 50% on January 19). In the state civil service as a whole, nearly one agent in four was on strike, against 28% on the first day of action on January 19, and 19.4% on January 31.
“The government has to take (resistance) into account when there are so many people in the streets, when they’re having so much trouble explaining and passing their reform,” Berger said.
THE WORLD IN FRENCH
Every morning, a selection of articles from The World In French straight to your inbox
Ali Toure, a 28-year-old construction worker, was waiting for a delayed train north of Paris on Tuesday morning but said it was “no big deal” if he arrived late to work for a month. “They’re right to be striking. Manual labor is hard,” he said.
A blockade of oil refineries, underway since Tuesday morning, has the potential to cause severe disruption if it continues in the weeks ahead.
The reform was to continue its legislative proceeding in the Senate on Tuesday evening with a debate over the article crystallizing the opposition of the unions and the left: The postponement of the legal retirement age to 64 years old.
We are interested in your experience using the site.
A vote by both houses of parliament is expected by the middle of the month or by March 26, at the latest.