Trains were idle, ports were closed, schools were empty, flights were canceled, trash was not picked up, and refineries were closed in Paris.
That’s exactly what happened in France on Tuesday, when labor unions said they would bring the country “to a standstill” and more than a million people took to the streets to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to make 62 the legal retirement age, which would make 64 the age.
Following two months of an uncomfortable showdown and five past exhibitions that have spread out the nation over, neither one of the sides has given any indication of withdrawing.
Many people are wondering if Tuesday will be the start of a new movement that could get the government to act, or if it will just be the last yell of frustration as Mr. Macron implements his change.
“Is this going to be a turning point?
Will either group be successful in persuading the public? She added, “You have 67 million French people who are watching this match” in addition to the government, unions, and protesters.
According to analysts, Mr. Macron has backed himself into a corner by putting so much political weight on a change that few want or see as urgent when he is facing the biggest social confrontation since his reelection last year. He could become a lame-duck president just one year into his second five-year term if the bill is not passed.
There were already numerous indications of disruption on Tuesday morning.
On numerous national railway lines, only one train in five was operating; The metro and regional express trains in Paris experienced significant disruptions; Some flights from Charles de Gaulle and Orly, Paris’s two main airports, were canceled.
Energy production was reduced at nuclear power plants by workers; Striders quit refineries and halted gas and fuel deliveries; In several Parisian neighborhoods, trash wasn’t picked up, and protesters stopped incinerators.
According to the Education Ministry, roughly one-third of primary and secondary school teachers went on strike, resulting in the closure of classrooms across the nation.
However, despite the unions’ rare unity and strength and their ability to mobilize over a million people during previous protests, they have achieved little. Some are now calling for continuous, disruptive strikes, particularly in critical fields like transportation and energy, where some unions have already called for longer walkouts. This would put more pressure on Mr. Macron but could make people think against them.
Vincent Martigny, a political science professor at the University of Nice, stated, “There is no room for negotiation anymore.” That is a component of the issue: Both teams will lose.
It is thought to be particularly challenging to alter France’s coveted, complicated retirement system, which is regarded as one of the most generous in Europe. It was famously stated by Michel Rocard, a former prime minister for the Socialist party, that it was “enough to topple several governments.”
According to the current one, the retirement age needs to be raised to prevent long-term deficits brought on by an increase in the number of French pensioners and longer life expectancies. The pensions of current retirees are paid for by current workers in the French system.
Although Mr. Macron was vague about the specifics, he made raising the retirement age a central part of his campaign for reelection and believes that his victory is a public endorsement of the plan. However, opponents contend that many French voters supported Mr. Macron’s platform rather than Marine Le Pen, his far-right opponent.
In his victory speech, Mr. Macron acknowledged this and promised to take it into account during his second term. This was part of a larger promise to govern with more cooperation and fewer orders from above.
Union leaders say that Mr. Macron didn’t keep that promise and didn’t pay attention to the fact that people still strongly oppose the change. Late surveys found that approximately 60% of French individuals endorsed carrying France to end.
Small concessions have been made by the government, such as granting exemptions to young workers. However, the majority of those were offered as incentives to support the conservative Republican Party.
The government has taken a harder line with unions.
it’s workers that they are going to bring to their knees,” he added.
While there is a possibility of long-term deficits in France’s retirement system, bankruptcy is not imminent. According to labor unions, Mr. Macron is unfairly targeting blue-collar workers by refusing to consider other methods of increasing system funding, such as taxes on the wealthy.
The government used a special procedure to speed up the process, which stifled discussion, during the pension bill’s debate in the National Assembly, France’s lower and more powerful house of Parliament. As opponents buried the bill in thousands of amendments in a show of rejection, lawmakers yelled, mocked, and exchanged insults.
The upper house of parliament, the Senate, is currently looking into the bill. Mr. Macron anticipates passing it by the end of the month. He is not expected to abandon the first significant change of his term.
The political analyst, Ms. Morin, stated, “If he backs down now, that would be saying he gives up on governing for the next four years.” Today, his long-term goal is to be remembered as the president who changed pensions and may reestablish equilibrium in the system.
Analysts say that if Mr. Macron doesn’t change, he runs the risk of becoming known as “Jupiter,” someone who gives orders from above and listens to few.
Mr. Martigny stated, “I think it’s going to be quite difficult for Macron to rebound” in one way or another.
The presidential election demonstrated widespread political disengagement. The first round of voting saw the lowest ever turnout. Although the next elections are a long way off, some analysts warn that disillusionment could grow if Mr. Macron’s government implements the pension reform despite its unpopularity.
As they consider their next steps, labor unions face similar high stakes.
According to political science professor Dominique Andolfatto, who studies unions at the University of Bourgogne, they had played their cards well thus far. They have benefited from the government’s confusing and sometimes contradictory statements, which have not alienated the public. For instance, a rise in the minimum monthly pension will benefit fewer workers than was initially anticipated.
Mr. Andolfatto argued that only a new factor, such as volatile student protests or the emergence of an uncontrollable Yellow Vest-like movement, could alter the government’s calculations. However, the mass demonstrations organized by labor unions have also been predictable.
Mr. Andolfatto stated, “If the movement remains in the hands of the unions, I’m not sure they will go very far,” adding that it was unclear whether the unions had sufficient funds to sustain prolonged strikes during a time of high inflation.
He stated, “It is not so easy to convince people to go on strike for a long time with the increase in food and energy prices.”
Some protests have been successful in the past. Over a social security overhaul in 1995, unions shut down the country for three weeks just before Christmas. The overhaul included raising the legal retirement age, which was dropped. In 2006, the government was even forced to repeal a youth labor law after protests lasted for weeks.
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