A nationwide transport strike in France is entering its third week with no sign that a deal will be reached anytime soon.
Strikers were able to cut power to thousands of people and businesses, including the Bank of France. Meanwhile, metro and bus service has been severely disrupted. A movement is underway to reimburse French commuters because of the mayhem.
Valerie Pecresse, president of the Ile-de-France region encompassing Paris, called on transport operator RATP to fully reimburse users for the commuting mayhem since the strike was launched on December 5.
“And don’t try telling me that some lines still have some trains, because the truth is that for everyone, this minimal service is basically nothing,” she told RTL radio.
Good luck with that, madame.
The strike erupted over new rules governing pensions for public workers, who would have the 42 different current retirement systems integrated into the general pension system. The reforms would also raise the retirement age for many workers, some of whom can currently retire in their 50s. The problem is no one trusts President Emmanuel Macron to get it right, which has led to calls for his resignation.
Macron appears to be backing down some in this most recent round of negotiations.
The French government on Wednesday didn’t rule out potential changes to its plan to delay the age of retirement on full pension by two years, from 62 to 64. That proposal has been the main cause of discontent.
Recent polls show a majority of the French support the strikes and protests against the new system, which they fear will make them work longer in return for lower pensions.
“We must find a compromise,” Macron’s aide told the Associated Press.
France is known for the radicalism of its unions, but Macron is hoping to bring at least one of those unions on board.
Hard left unions strongly reject Macron’s project and have called for persevering with the strikes during the holidays.
But the government had long hoped that France’s largest union, the center-left, reformist CFDT, would back the project.
CFDT Secretary-General Laurent Berger has said he was in favor of a “universal and fair” new system, but that delaying the age of retirement was a “red line.” His union joined the protest movement last week after the government detailed the planned measures.
Since Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age does not include most current workers, the “red line” would be for younger workers. Those workers striking today are in no danger of being forced to keep working.
But trust in Macron is non-existent, leading to the current impasse. The strike is now hurting the economy and making the lives of ordinary Frenchmen miserable. Macron’s error in judgment in trying to foist these reforms on the unions will almost certainly come back to haunt him.