Paris: France is experiencing the ninth nationwide day of strikes as citizens protest against an unpopular pension bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. The strikes have caused disruptions in train services and the closure of some schools. Protesters have also blocked highways and bus depots, with garbage piling up on the streets.
President Emmanuel Macron has stated that the legislation will come into force by the end of the year, despite ongoing rallies against the bill since January led by worker unions. Philippe Martinez, who leads the hardline CGT union, said that the best response to the president’s decision is the presence of millions of people on strike and in the streets.
While most protests have been peaceful, the government’s decision to push the bill through parliament without a vote has caused more anger among the protesters. In the past seven days, there have been spontaneous demonstrations in Paris and other cities, with angry protesters setting fire to rubbish bins and getting into scuffles with police.
Labour unions have called for a day of strikes and protests to draw huge crowds against Macron’s “scorn” and “lies”. Polls have shown that a wide majority of French citizens are opposed to the pension legislation, and the government’s decision to push it through parliament without a vote has worsened the situation.
Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt acknowledged the government’s understanding of the anger among citizens, but stated the need to move on. “There is a disagreement that will persist on the retirement age. On the other hand, there are many subjects that make it possible to renew dialogue,” he said.
The ongoing protests have caused disruptions to daily life in France, with citizens expressing their discontent and opposition to the government’s decision regarding the pension bill.