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Macron's reforms force mass strike action in France
Posted on 02/12/2019

TransportFrance

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From the 5th of December, workers across Paris will be fighting to keep their pension and retirement rights by going on strike against Macron's proposed reforms.

Starting on December 5, which is being called ?Black Thursday', workers across France and particularly the Paris region will be taking a stand against Macron's ?one for all' pension system.

Why are workers striking?

Why are workers striking?
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These reforms will abolish the improved pension schemes that transport workers have fought for in return for their long shifts and anti-social working conditions. The changes include raising the retirement age to 62 for all transport workers which is especially crippling for metro workers who will see a 12-year increase in their retirement age if the reforms come into action. In his last election campaign, Macron specifically promised there would be no changes to the pension age, and this is being seen as a distinct betrayal to French workers.

A sign of somethig bigger?

A sign of somethig bigger?
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There is a strong argument that this action is a sign of something far bigger than just pension reforms. What's clear from last year's Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) protests is that there is a real discontent and dissatisfaction towards austerity and Macron's centrist government from working-class and middle-class people alike. It is being reported that 64% of French people are in support of the December 5 action against pension reforms, revealing distinct solidarity between workers in France against their government.

Inter-professional action

Inter-professional action
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The transport sector strike is rightly getting a lot of attention, however, many other industries are also taking industrial action to voice their discontent towards the establishment and Macron's government outside the issue of pension reforms. CGT, the union representing the majority of French workers, is calling for an interprofessional strike against the government. The right to strike is tightly woven into the French constitution which grants unions greater powers to organise than they have in the UK for example. This means that Macron's unwillingness to negotiate or backtrack on the proposed reforms has the potential to provoke a general strike and mass scale disruption across the country beyond the transport sector.

Who is involved?

Transport

Transport
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All of the RATP (buses, trams and RER and metro trains) unions and 3 SNCF unions have decided on unlimited strike action from the 5th of December in the Paris region. This means there is no confirmed end date to their industrial action.

SNCF has gone so far as to pre-emptively cancel trains and has stopped all further ticket sales between the 5th and 8th with a few services' booking closed till the 10th.

According to Libération, The CGT union is also calling for a strike of all road transport of passengers, goods and funds which would also include groups such as postal workers, paramedics, delivery workers and taxi drivers.

This will also mean that Eurostar services will not be able to travel through France as the signalling workers are striking. So far, Eurostar has currently suspended ticket sales between the 5th and 8th.

Lorry drivers are also planning to block ports which will likely severely disrupt road traffic at the channel crossing.

3 Air France (predominantly) ground staff unions have filled notice for strikes and air traffic controllers are also likely to strikes but aircrew unions have not. This is likely to see severe disruption at French airports.

Education

Education
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10-20% of schools have already announced closures on the 5th and 60% of teachers currently are planning to strike with 3 days still to go before the individual strike declaration deadline.

There are also calls for non-teaching staff such as canteen workers and school transport workers to strike alongside teachers

Secondary and college students also declared their support for the strikes relatively early compared to other groups.

Energy and the environment

Energy and the environment
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Three-quarters of the unions representing energy workers are calling for strike action. Electricians and gas workers (who have their own separate industrial action framework) including EDF workers could also follow suit.

They will also be joined by some waste and recycling collection workers.

Law and order

Law and order
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Lawyers with the national bar association of France have voted for a day of ?dead justice' on the 5th alongside calls from the magistrates and lawyers unions for strike action.

Police are not joining the planned protests or marches but instead, are 'demonstrating differently' by closing police stations, refusing to file reports or reinforce airports and toll points.

Hospitals

Hospitals
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After many months of seperate action and protests, hospital workers are planning a period of action between the 30th of November and 10th of December. However, this action has not been registered as uniting with the CGT union demonstrations on the 5th.

Will there be disruption outside Paris?

The strikes are rapidly turning into a country-wide movement with demonstrations taking place all over France. The biggest issues will be with regional train disruption and its likely more unions in different sectors will announce their industrial action 24 hours in advance of the 5th December. People visiting or travelling in and around France from the 5th of December onwards are advised to regularly check their travel operator's updates to keep track of any potential disruption. It's also important to recognise that most companies are offering refunds or ticket exchanges for journeys planned during the strikes as customers are protected by EU consumer rights legislation.