French unions started a mass basic strike throughout France on December fifth that noticed railway employees, Metro and bus drivers, hauliers, lecturers, airline floor crew, air site visitors controllers and postal employees all be a part of the mass walk-out.

Their aim is to pressure the federal government to drop a controversial new pension reform that they imagine will go away many individuals having to work longer for decrease month-to-month pensions.

The strike entered its second day on Friday with unions warning they’re ready to proceed their struggle till Christmas if the federal government doesn’t reply to their issues.

Those worries centre round modifications to France’s difficult pension system.

Currently, there are 42 totally different programs, so the age you may retire and the extent of pension you get relies on the place you’re employed.

For instance SNCF practice drivers and Metro drivers can retire at 50 and 52 respectively, with the typical worker of RATP (which runs the Paris public transport community) getting a month-to-month pension of €3,705. 

In comparability, anybody who does not take pleasure in a ‘particular regime’ for pensions – typically individuals who work within the personal sector – can retire at 62 and get a mean pension of between €1,260 and €1,460 a month.

The distinction is usually due to how pensions are calculated. For the vast majority of folks within the personal sector their pension is calculated based mostly on their wage over 25 years, however some particular regimes calculate pensions based mostly simply on the wage of the worker throughout their last six months of labor.

The reform that French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed creates one common system so everybody’s pension is calculated in the identical manner, considering the worker’s complete profession and introducing a factors based mostly system for pensions and potential early retirements.

Unions say it will penalise individuals who have been via a interval of unemployment, taken a profession break or began on a very low wage.

French President Emmanuel Macron referred to the strikers as “dominated by employees of big transport businesses” with “categorical demands that would penalise the society at large.” 

Unsurprisingly, the unions don’t agree with him.

Before the strikes started we requested a few of France’s largest unions to justify bringing France to a halt.

READ ALSO: Flights, trains and buses – your questions answered about France’s December strikes

Strikes in opposition to pension reform in 1995 brought about enormous disruption for 3 weeks till the federal government backed down. Photo: AFP

CGT – Confédération Générale du Travail

“Striking the only means to obtain social progress in this country,” mentioned Benjamin Amar, political spokesman for the CGT. 

“You have to use le bras de fer (strong-arming, additional defined right here).”

The CGT was the main commerce union throughout the 1995 strikes, when Jacques Chirac’s authorities tried to push via one other unpopular pension reform. After three weeks, the federal government deserted the reform. 

The present reform, Amar mentioned, would have “catastrophic social consequences” for French employees. 

“Macron is the president of the patronat (the employers). The reform is a gift in disguise to them,” he mentioned.

“Believe me, we would favor to sit down round a desk if we might.

“No one likes placing. It’s powerful on our wallets, our bodily and psychological well being. But we’d like to mobilise to defend our rights.”

“British workers know what we’re talking about. [Former British Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher broke down the unions, and who is defending their rights now? No one.”

So how lengthy is the CGT ready to preserve the strong-arming going?

“We’re not talking numbers. This is not math, it’s a deep-set anger. Our workers are angry,” he mentioned, including: “And I prefer that they express their anger together with us rather than through the far-right, like in other countries.”

READ ALSO France’s December strike: Expect main disruption that would final till New Year

CGT members in Paris went on strike in September to protest the federal government’s pension reform. PHOTO: AFP

FO – Force Ouvrière (Worker’s Force)

FO was created in 1948, following an inside break up within the CGT. Historically the FO members have been skeptical of the Communist Party’s affect on the CGT. FO is in the present day France’s third largest union, behind CGT and CFDT. 

“This is not just about defending the special regimes,” mentioned FO’s General Secretary Yves Veyrier.

“We talk a lot about the rail workers, but in reality the reform will negatively impact the French population as a whole.”

Veyrier is referring to that the reform will change the way in which pensions are calculated for everybody, each private and non-private sector employees.

“We have been telling the government this for two years now, but no one is listening,” Veyrier mentioned.

But does this justify paralysing the entire nation? 

“We don’t have a choice. It’s not like we enjoy striking,” he mentioned.

A lot of the employees fear about shedding their salaries, Veyrier mentioned, which might influence how lengthy they will preserve the strike going. 

“But we received’t go house on December fifth saying ‘properly that was a good strike, disgrace we did not obtain something’,” he mentioned.

“In that case we’ll be again at it on the sixth.”

READ ALSO OPINION Why pension reform at all times spells bother in France

“Keep the 42 regimes,” reads the banner held excessive by FO protesters strolling via Marseille in October. PHOTO: AFP

UNSA – Union nationale des syndicats autonomes 

“I’m afraid that is the one choice we have,” mentioned Dominique Corona, chief pension negotiator for UNSA, the umbrella union representing each private and non-private unions.

Among UNSA’s members is likely one of the nation’s largest lecturers’ unions, and a union representing elements of the RATP transport system (UNSA-RATP).

“The government keeps saying they don’t want teachers to lose money, but they don’t say how they will prevent it,” Corona mentioned.

In an echo of FO’s Veyrier, Corona mentioned the federal government is claiming to be in search of options, however isn’t arising with something substantial.

“This strike is not about punishing the government, it’s about finding solutions to improve the way France works.”

But is paralysing the entire nation actually the correct technique for reaching this?

“This is France,” Corona mentioned. 

“I would much rather live in a country where we didn’t have to pull a strike to get answers from the government.”

“It’s not us who don’t need to cooperate. It’s him [President Emmanuel Macron] who doesn’t need to cooperate with us,”

So how lengthy are they ready to preserve the strike going?

“The 6th, 7th, 8th.. This could go on for a very long time,” Corona mentioned.

“Unless of course the government comes up with something before then. In that case, we won’t strike.”

READ ALSO: French lecturers to be a part of transport employees in December strikes

Doctors, attorneys, pilots and nurses protested the proposed pension reform in September in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

SNUipp-FSU – National Teachers’ Union

Joining in on the strike can be France’s largest instructor’s union.

“This not something we do for fun. We would much rather be in class,” mentioned Francette Popineau, Co-General Secretary and spokesperson of the union.

Referring to the reform as “monstrous” Popineau mentioned she feared it might push French lecturers into poverty. 

She sees the President as indifferent from the French inhabitants  “I don’t think he understands,” she mentioned.

“He’s never been elected before, never been mayor. He didn’t have to look the people he ruled over in the eye at the bakery every morning.”

But, once more, is that ok motive to disrupt the entire nation?

“The problem in France is that our system is completely vertical. All decisions come from above,” Popineau mentioned.

“Striking is a right we use when there isn’t any dialogue. It’s a last resort.”

The lecturers’ union is undecided as to whether or not or not they may proceed the strike after December fifth.

“Obviously it’s a difficult state of affairs for us seeing as we’re answerable for the kids,” Popineau mentioned, including that she hopes the federal government will give you a resolution on the fifth.

“But we’re prepared to keep on the streets if crucial,” she mentioned.


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