Empty forecourts and platforms at the Gare de l’Est in Paris on March 7, 2023, as more strikes and protests are planned against the government’s controversial pension reform.
Christophe Archambault | AFP | Getty Images
The strike against plans to raise the retirement age in France caused widespread disruption on Tuesday, as trains nearly came to a standstill, many schools were closed and fuel deliveries were blocked from refineries.
National rail operator SNCF has warned passengers to cancel or postpone journeys, if possible, while Eurostar has advised ticket holders to check if their train is running. Most metro services are also canceled, as are some flights from Paris airports Charles de Gaulle and Orly.
Unions call on French President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his plan to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and oblige workers to contribute to the French common pension fund for 43 years before receiving a full pension.
Macron has for years sought to reform the pension system, which has a projected annual deficit of 10 billion euros ($10.73 billion) each year between 2022 and 2032, according to France’s Pension Advisory Council. This decision is fiercely opposed by a large part of the public.
More than a million people parade across the country in late January to oppose the plans. Union officials are aiming to take two million people to the streets on Tuesday.
Trade unionists gather ahead of a strike vote at the Exxon-Mobil Port Jerome Gravenchon refinery in Port-Jerome-sur-Seine, near Le Havre, northwestern France, March 7, 2023.
Lou Benoist | AFP | Getty Images
Eric Sellini, a CGT union representative at TotalEnergies, told Reuters a strike blocking the Gonfreville refinery in Normandy would continue until Thursday. Another at the Donges refinery in western France is expected to operate until Friday, he added.
The lockdowns could cause a petrol shortage by the end of the week, said Thierry Cotillard, boss of French supermarket group Les Mousquetaires. said.
“Let’s stop France! a coalition of trade unions said in a statementcalling the reforms “unacceptable and unnecessary”.
Police protest outside the Roubaix police station in northern France on March 7, 2023, the sixth day of national rallies organized since the start of the year.
Samir Al Doumy | AFP | Getty Images
The strikes come as French workers grapple with searing inflation, which unexpectedly accelerated in February to hit 6.2% from year to year.
About two-thirds of the population support protests against pension reforms, according to a Elabe survey.
But with the number of people taking to the streets embedding in February, several unions called for continuous and indefinite strikes to express their opposition.
Macron will seek to get his plan through parliament by the end of next month, but could also resort to using special constitutional powers to push them through. This latest decision would risk triggering a vote of no confidence and new legislative elections, which he can bet he can avoid.
Macron’s Renaissance party — formerly La République En Marche! — does not have an absolute majority in parliament, but is supported in the reforms by certain conservative MPs Les Républicains.
Renaud Foucart, a lecturer in economics at Lancaster University, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” that he thought Macron had a much better chance of getting the law passed than when he suggested a set of more complex reforms four years ago.
“This reform is essential,” Alexander Holroyd of the Renaissance political party told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” last month, citing the scale of the projected deficit and rising life expectancies.
“It’s a tough reform. Look, we’re asking people to work more. We understand it’s tough, but the responsible thing to do here is to balance the books and make sure this great pension system that we can survive for the next 40 years like for 40 years.”