Protests in Paris. Protests in Paris. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Cici Washburn and Shabbir Lakha report from Paris on the huge protests against President Macron’s pension reforms which are generalising into wider issues

The tenth day of national action against Macron’s pension reforms saw hundreds of thousands of workers on strike and on the streets. An estimated 450,000 marched through Paris with trade-union trucks, balloons and sound systems, union flags and home-made placards, flares and sound bombs to make their opposition clear.

Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The demonstration in Paris was extremely diverse. There were groups of middle and high schoolers and university students with their school and university names on banners – some of whom had shut down and barricaded their schools together with striking teachers or occupied their universities. There were dockers, bus drivers, teachers and Disneyland workers. There were members of most sections of every trade union.

Barricaded school. Photo: John Mullen

The left political parties, particularly La France Insoumise had a strong presence and the party’s President Mathilde Panot, former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and MPs including Daniele Obono were greeted enthusiastically and given huge support by demonstrators and especially the younger protesters.

Earlier in the day, La France Insoumise welcomed and hosted a delegation of British strikers: Andrew Meyerson, a junior doctor, Feyzi Ismail, a university lecturer, and Harry Eccles, a nurse. Speaking at the press conference, Daniele Obono made the connection between NHS workers campaigning against the government’s deal and the need to continue the struggle in France, and said:

“We had hoped to demonstrate in parallel with Charles III’s visit [but instead] we invited British trade unionists who are now on strike. There is also a mass strike movement in the UK to defend hospitals and around the question of the cost of living.”

Daniele Obono with British striking workers. Photo: Cici Washburn

The delegation then joined the demonstration and marched alongside French strikers, and met Jean-Luc Mélenchon who thanked them for bringing solidarity and expressed his solidarity with the strikes in the UK.

It was also clear on the demonstration that the movement is generalising. There was a bloc of undocumented migrants opposing the French state’s racism. Beyond opposing the pension reforms and the undemocratic way Macron has imposed them, there were placards and chants about wider economic inequality, the state of public services and the horrific level of police brutality against protesters.

Photo: Cici Washburn

On the weekend, protesters in Sainte-Soline were savagely attacked by the police, leaving two people in a coma. La France Insoumise has launched a petition calling for the dissolution of the Brav-M special motorcycle unit of the police which has received over 100,000 signatures in four days.

Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The number of workers striking today and the numbers on the streets seem to be marginally fewer compared to the last day of action on Thursday last week. Speaking to union reps, the sense was that this was down to the difficulty workers are facing with lost wages from previous strike days in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, as well as the severe level of police brutality.

The question was raised, however, about the strategy of trade unions to call one-day actions and their reluctance to move towards a general strike as part of the reasons for the reduced numbers. Some of the unions also offered Macron a route to arbitration (which was rejected), but this doesn’t bode well when they’re otherwise on the front foot. Polls nevertheless do show that 90% of working people continue to oppose the reforms and support the strikes in response.

It was clear from today that the movement is far from over, and as long as the workers maintain the resolve they’ve shown so far, it remains difficult to see how Macron can get out of this crisis. The unions have called the next day of strikes and demonstrations on 6 April.

Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Before you go

Counterfire is growing faster than ever before

We need to raise £20,000 as we are having to expand operations. We are moving to a bigger, better central office, upping our print run and distribution, buying a new printer, new computers and employing more staff.

Please give generously.

Tagged under: