2.5mln protest Macron pension reform plan, 'standstill' looming
French unions warn that they would call for a national strike that would "bring France to a standstill" if Macron's pension reform plan is not dropped.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in France on Saturday in a fourth day of action against French President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform, with unions warning they would ramp up strikes if the plan is not dropped.
NEW 🚨 Massive pension reform protest in Paris, Francepic.twitter.com/vSdb4iEtUo— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) February 11, 2023
Unlike on the three previous protest days, there was no call for a day of nationwide strikes, although air traffic controllers at Paris' second airport staged a surprise walkout that left half of the flights canceled.
Macron and his government face a double battle to raise the pension age from 62 to 64, overcoming resistance on the streets as well as pushing the legislation through parliament.
The CGT union said 500,000 people protested in Paris alone, and over 2.5 million nationwide.
The French Ministry of Interior, which generally gives much lower numbers, claimed there were 963,000 protesters nationwide and 93,000 in Paris.
Other French cities also witnessed protests, with images on television showing police using water cannons in the western city of Rennes.
Protesters in the French capital took the traditional protest route from Republique Square to Nation Square, behind a banner saying, "No to working longer!"
Nearly 1 million protest pension reforms across France https://t.co/3umdtGHGmH pic.twitter.com/B6L8tKHt8h— New York Post (@nypost) February 11, 2023
Tensions rose when a car and a bin were overturned and set on fire, prompting shield-wielding police and the fire brigade to intervene.
Read more: 1.27 - 2.8 million French protesters march against Macron reform plan
National strike that would 'bring France to a standstill'
The march was led by the leaders of France's eight main unions. The unions warned in a joint statement that they would call for a national strike that would "bring France to a standstill" on March 7 -- when the text of the bill is due in France's upper house -- if the government "remained deaf to the popular mobilization."
Another day of protests and strikes is planned on February 16.
The leader of the hardline CGT, Philippe Martinez, pointed out that "the ball is in the court of the president and the government to determine if the movement intensifies and hardens or if they take into account the current mobilization."
Laurent Berger, the head of the CFDT union, a more moderate group the government hoped would take a different line, considered that the timetable would give time to the government if it wants to react.
In the same context, unions representing workers on the Paris RATP public transport system called for a rolling strike from March 7.
"Despite the rejection by a very large majority of the population, the government remains intent on its brutal, unfair and unjustified reform," they said.
Speaking in Brussels, Macron last week urged unions to show a "spirit of responsibility" and "not block the life of the rest of the country."
It is noteworthy that the French President's ruling party also faces a challenge to push the legislation through parliament where it lost its overall majority in elections last year.
Read more: Macron should prepare for an early retirement: Spiked