All eyes are on the French government because it prepares to unveil extra particulars on Wednesday about the pension reform, in a bid to dissolve the gridlock that has paralysed most of the nation’s transport system since December fifth.

The strikes, organised to protest the plans for a single points-based pension scheme, recall the winter of 1995 when three weeks of giant stoppages pressured a social coverage U-turn by the then-government. 

Unions are hoping to repeat their 1995 success and name for an enormous mobilisation on Tuesday to place as a lot stress as potential on Prime Minister Edouard Philippe earlier than his long-awaited speech on Wednesday.

READ ALSO Strikes in France: What you should find out about protests and journey disruption on Tuesday

So far this government appears unwavering, with Philippe reaffirming to Le Journal du Dimanche as late as Sunday that it won’t drop its quest to overtake the present pension system.

“If we don’t make a far-reaching, critical and progressive reform at the moment, another person will make a very brutal one tomorrow,” the Prime Minister stated.

But unions haven’t any intention to again down both, telling The Local that they’re ready to strike for so long as it takes for the government to backpedal.

“The government must go back to start”

“We will keep going until the government caves,” stated Benjamin Amar, political spokesperson for the CGT, one in every of the important unions representing the transport sector, which has been placing since Thursday. 

The CGT is crystal clear on that they won’t settle for something lower than an entire give up from the government. 

“I’m scared” reads the signal as CGT members march. Photo: AFP

Although the CGT is understood to be the most firm-handed and uncompromising of the unions, all the unions informed The Local that they stand agency on the demand that the government “go back to start.”

“After two years of consulting I hope that [the government] has finally understood that this reform was a really bad idea,” stated Yves Veyrier, General Secretary of the union Force Ouvrière (FO), referring to the points-based pension system that the government desires to put in.

The government says the present French retirement system is complicated, opaque and unfair and desires to introduce a common system the place all people’s pension is calculated in the identical approach. As said of their July plan the new, one-size-fits-all system would be sure that “every € earned gives the same rights to all French people.”

But unions worry this might have detrimental monetary and social penalties for France at giant.

“It’s a scandalous reform that will make everyone work longer for less,” stated Francette Popineau, Co-General Secretary and spokesperson of the nationwide trainer’s union SNUipp-FSU.

“This received’t stop at Christmas”

French lecturers earn lower than many of their European colleagues. Whereas the common trainer’s wage in France lies at €30,350 a yr pre tax, a trainer in the UK would earn €36,247. German lecturers’ salaries are a lot increased, at €48,571.

To compensate for his or her low wage, French lecturers’ pensions are based mostly on their earnings the final six months of earlier than they retire. But the new reform would scrap this method.

Popineau, who beforehand informed The Local she feared the reform would push French lecturers into poverty, reaffirmed on Monday that she stays “very skeptical” as as to whether the government would make concessions substantial sufficient to name off the strike.

“This won’t stop at Christmas. We are ready to continue after New Year’s if we have to,” she stated.

French Teachers protest what they are saying are deteriorating work-conditions, exterior of Paris in October. Photo: AFP

“It’s our job to maintain the anger”

While the transport sector is using a tactic of full paralysation, the lecturers are taking shifts placing to make sure a minimal presence for the youngsters. Only 10-20 p.c of lecturers have been placing on Monday, in line with Popineau, however Tuesday is one other day of mass-mobilisation.

Popineau stated the dad and mom of their pupils stay sympathetic to the strikers for the time being.

“But obviously everyone wants this to stop as quickly as possible. No one likes striking,” she stated.

The large query is how lengthy the unions can inspire sufficient of their their staff to maintain going. Each day the staff strike, they lose a day’s price of wage.

Although Monday’s numbers have been excessive, with 77.three p.c of the SNCF practice conductors placing, it was a slight drop from Friday’s 85.7 p.c. The RATP nevertheless introduced on Monday afternoon that they might preserve placing at the very least until Thursday, with one union saying it would proceed until Friday and maybe the weekend, which means Parisian commuters must make due with out the Metro for many of the week.

“It’s our job to maintain the anger,” Amar stated, explaining that the strikers are going ‘all in’, aiming to use most stress and block the economic system as rapidly and effectively as potential.

“We don’t negotiate, we fight,” he stated, quoting a CGT slogan.

FO’s Veyrier stated they have been taking it day-to-day, however that this “was not a question of time.”

“Our goal is to be heard. There is no need for this to go on for years,” he stated.

“Saving ‘special regimes’ is not enough”

All the unions stated they’re ready for that the government will make use of a method of divide and conquer with a view to weaken the motion.

Diviser pour réunir is an previous tactic,” Veyrier stated, using the French expression ‘divide to unite’, which refers to the technique the place the government tries to color an image of the strikers selfishly defending their very own pursuits with out consideration for the nation at giant. If the government accomplishes to make the reform about the ‘particular regimes’, they may get the public opinion on their aspect.

Currently, SNCF practice drivers and Metro drivers can retire at 50 and 52 respectively, with the common worker of RATP (which runs the Paris public transport community) getting a month-to-month pension averaging at €2,357. The official age for retirement in France is 62.

But all the unions stated selective concessions won’t suffice. Not even when the government caves on their promise to scrap the ‘particular regimes’ and let rail employees preserve their current advantages.

“Obviously we’re opposed to the idea of abolishing the special regimes, but that’s not the main reason we’re striking,” Amar said, adding that the fact that the government could be leaning towards making concessions to certain groups is “proof that the reform is unhealthy.”

“If this was really such a good reform they wouldn’t need to reassure people that they would be exempt from it,” he stated.

“The only solution is to bin the existing reform. Throw it in the trash.”

EXPLAINED: What are particular regimes and why are the French placing about them?

Unions count on the government to try to flip the public opinion towards them by pinning the strikers as selfishly defending luxurious ‘particular regimes’. Photo: AFP

53 p.c presently supportive

That the reform could have a collective detrimental impression on the nation as an entire and never simply on the particular regimes is an important level for the unions to hammer dwelling with a view to preserve the public opinion on their aspect. 

Before the strikes, opinion polls confirmed a preferred assist of round 63 p.c. After the first day of placing, the assist had fallen barely, to 53 p.c in line with an opinion ballot printed in Le Journal de Dimanche.

But whereas Thursday and Friday have been comparatively calm with many selecting to remain dwelling reasonably than defying the visitors disruption, Monday proved a lot tenser.

The few trains working have been so jam-packed that the SNCF warned of harmful journey situations and urged those that might to remain dwelling. Commuters making an attempt to enter the capital by automotive have been trapped for hours in queues measuring 600 km – an all-time-record. On the prime of that, anybody choosing a motorcycle was soaked in heavy rain.

But on Monday afternoon unions stated they believed that the public opinion remained on their aspect. 

“We all saw how massive the mobilisation on Thursday was,” Veyrier stated.

Pointing to earlier strikes in 1995 and in 2010, Amar stated:

“Look, we know how to do this. Every time we strike we talk to people continuously to hear what they think. And they are not stupid, they know that this reform is bad.”


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