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France: Mass Strikes in Protest Against Pension Reform,Thursday. Left Unites Behind Movement.

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Mass Strikes in France this Thursday.

France is set to see the first real test of a movement against President Macron’s attempt to change the French pension system. This will replace existing arrangements with a points-based “reforms” that will cut payments and raise the age of retirement.

The protests and work stoppages this week come at a strategic time of the year, designed to exercise maximum pressure.

Another reason is that the 5th of December in 1995 saw the launch of the successful movement  against the “plan Juppé”  proposed by the Prime Minister of right wing President Jacques Chirac reforms (that is, cuts and restrictions on)  of health, social security and public sector pensions.

The present however affects everybody and is identified directly with the President, Emmanuel Macron, himself.

Trade unions, SNCF, RATP, Air France … Many organisations are involved in the mobilisation of Thursday, December 5 against Macron’s  pension reform.

Five unions in the Paris region transport network had called for an indefinite strike from 5 December – Unsa-RATP, CFE-CGC RATP, SUD-RATP, Solidaires-RATP and FO-RATP – before being joined by the CGT RATP.

The CGT, FO and Solidaires call for the demonstration and an indefinite strike from December 5 in the urban and road transport of passengers, goods and funds, or even blocking unlimited on busy roads. Ambulance workers, or taxis are also expected to join the movement.

In education, unions do not consider the government’s commitment to teachers to be sufficient. Most of their unions (Snes-FSU, Snuipp-FSU, SE-Unsa, Snalc, Solidaires …) have called out approximately 900,000 teachers of the first and second degree to strike.

Several police unions including Alliance and Unsa threaten to join the social movement of December 5 with actions in police stations if the Ministry of the Interior “does not meet their (their) expectations,” according to a press release.

An appeal of 15 hospital unions, doctors and employees in the health sector calls for members to join the movement.

In the energy sector, disturbances are also expected. Three of the four representative unions – CGT, FO and the CFE-CGC-Unsa alliance – are calling for a strike. The 140,000 electricians and gas companies will protest against the possible disappearance of their own pension scheme.

Dustcarts and street rubbish collection will be affected.

Courts are likely to close as lawyers join the movement.

Others are expected to follow.

School student unions (syndicats lycéens Fidl, UNL, MNL) will be backing the day of action.

A  small section of the Gilets Jaunes has given its support.

Adapted from La Croix. and France 24.

The national bodies of the ‘reformist’ union, the CFDT, have not called for strike action and their leader even backs them  (Le secrétaire général de la CFDT est dans une position difficile : il est le seul syndicaliste qui soutient encore la réforme des retraites lancée par Emmanuel Macron ) but some affiliated bodies, such as the Train drivers will join in.

In Forbes Alex Ledsom explains the reason for this wave of protest,

Why are they on strike?

The strike is against the French government’s proposed pension reforms. President Macron wishes to streamline the current pension system comprising 42 separate regimes into a single operating system. The new system would introduce a “points system” of retirement, which threatens the current early retirement age of many public service workers.

More importantly for the protesters, the reforms would impact how much money they receive. Currently, public sector workers’ pensions are calculated on the salary they earned for the last six months of working life–which is usually the highest for most people–and they are also assessed on the 25 best years of their working life. The new system will take every year into account, meaning that people who worked on lower salaries for years or had periods of unemployment, will see that translate into a lower pension.

A hopeful sign (reported across the French media) is that the Left has responded to this social movement with united support.

This is a rather rare phenomenon on the left of the French political spectrum: unity behind a common cause. This is what seems to be happening at the initiative of the Communist Party, which called on all the left parties to gather at a big joint meeting on December 11, against the pension reform.

A few days before the major mobilisation of December 5 against pension reform , Emmanuel Macron managed to unify the left, against his project. The Communist Party, calling for support for demonstrations on December the 5th, has also invited all leftist parties, from the Socialist Party to Green Party, EELV and La France insoumise to a large national meeting on December the 11th.”

Europe 1.

This declaration, Pensions: Against Individualism We Choose Solidarity, is also signed by figures from all sides of the left including the most radical.

Retraites: contre l’individualisme, nous choisissons la solidarité

Answering the charge that protests are a corporatist movement to defend existing unequal pensions and retirement ages (Not to mention the complicated network of different bodies that administer them)  they state,

The counter-reform of pensions is part of a plan to destroy the system of solidarity through  the elimination of public services, the punitive reform of unemployment insurance, privatisation (ADP), and attacks on all employee statuses.

Against this upheaval of society, our alternative is based on universal rights: retirement at 60 with at the rate of 75% indexed on the best wages, earned guaranteed for all. But also a collective right to an early departure for those who have engaged in arduous work, so that they may retire still in good health. This requires an increase in socialised contributions including those levied on profits. And a fall in unemployment by reducing working time would also bring resources into the system.

Full text via above link.

Europe Ecologie-les Verts (EELV) : Sandra Regol, porte-parole ; Alain Coulombel, secrétaire national adjoint

Ensemble ! : Clémentine Autain, députée de La France insoumise (FI), Myriam Martin, porte-parole, conseillère régionale LFI Occitanie; Jean-François Pellissier, porte-parole

Gauche démocratique et sociale (GDS) : Gérard Filoche, porte-parole ; Anne de Haro, GDS Ile-de-France

Génération·s : Guillaume Balas et Claire Monod, coordinateurs nationaux

Mouvement pour la démocratie en Europe (Diem 25) : Emma Justum, coordination nationale

Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA) : Olivier Besancenot, Christine Poupin, Philippe Poutou, porte-parole

Nouvelle Donne (ND) : Aline Mouquet, co-présidente, Gilles Pontlevoy : co-président

Parti communiste français (PCF) : Cathy Apourceau-Poly, membre de la direction du PCF, sénatrice du Pas-de-Calais ; Pierre Dharreville, membre de la direction du PCF, député des Bouches-du-Rhône

Parti communiste des ouvriers de France (PCOF) : Véronique Lamy et Christian Pierrel, coporte-parole

Parti de Gauche (PG) : Eric Coquerel, député FI, co-coordinateur du PG; Danielle Simonnet, conseillère de Paris, co-coordinatrice du PG

Pour une écologie populaire et sociale (PEPS) : Sergio Coronado, Jean Lafont, Elise Lowy, Bénédicte Monville

République et socialisme (RS) : Marinette Bache, conseillère de Paris ; Lucien Jallamion, secrétaire national ; Mariane Journiac, secrétaire nationale

François Ruffin, député La France insoumise de la Somme.

This united political response comes in conditions as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement Nationale (ex Front National) has supported the protest and strike (Retraites : Marine Le Pen soutient la grève du 5 décembre).

Union leaders have made it clear she not welcome on any of their marches.

Just 10 percent of trains will be running in France on Thursday due to strikes

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2019 at 6:16 pm

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