PARIS ( Associated Press) – French workers marched Tuesday in a new clash with the government over plans to raise France’s retirement age. Union leaders expected to bring more than a million people back on the streets in what a veteran leftist leader described as a “citizens’ revolt”.
The nationwide strike and protests were a significant test for both sides. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government said it was committed to fulfilling its election promise to reform the pension system. Left-wing lawmakers and unions opposed to Macron’s plans in parliament had counted on mass demonstrations to boost their efforts to thwart the reform.
Veteran left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon predicted a “historic day” of protest and a defeat for Macron, as crowds of people gathered in cities and towns outside Paris planning a larger demonstration for the capital later Tuesday.
“We don’t often see mass mobilization like this,” Mélenchon said in the southern city of Marseille. “It’s a form of civil rebellion.”
The first round of actions gathered between one and two million protesters this month, including several tens of thousands in Paris. Unions aimed to match or better those numbers on Tuesday, calling for another major protest in Paris on Tuesday afternoon and about 250 rallies planned elsewhere. The government mobilized 11,000 police officers to monitor the protests.
Things were heating up on both sides as a parliamentary battle began over the government’s bill to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
Macron on Monday described the reform as “essential”. Its prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, insisted late last week that raising the retirement age to 65 was “no longer negotiable.”
The strikers and protesters tried to prove otherwise.
Rail operator SNCF warned of major complications on its network on Tuesday due to the strike. He suggested that travelers cancel or postpone their trips and, if possible, work from home.
The stoppage also affected some schools and other areas. Radio France Inter was airing music instead of its regular talk show and apologized to its listeners as workers were on strike.