No, really. Just about all public sector workers in France walked out of work on Thursday to protest the way Emanuel Macron wants to restructure their pensions.
More than 800,000 demonstrators marched on cities throughout France today, with railway workers, teachers and hospital staff joining the largest strike in decades.
Authorities in Paris barricaded the presidential palace and deployed some 6,000 police as activists, many in yellow vests, gathered for a major march aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his pension reform plans….
Police said 65,000 people took to the streets of the French capital, and over 800,000 nationwide in often-tense demonstrations aimed at forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon pension reform.
In Nantes, police responded with tear gas and made arrests when protesters threw projectiles at officers before the rally in western France had begun.
There were similar scenes in Rennes and Bordeaux, where banks were attacked, and hundreds of rounds of tear gas were used by police.
Transport workers, teachers, postal workers, firefighters, medics and even lawyers were among those who took part in one of the biggest protests of its kind since 1995.
Schools were closed, flights were grounded and much of the Paris Metro was halted, with chaos expected to continue into Friday.
Unlike the United States, where mass walkouts are rare, especially for public sector workers, in Europe and elsewhere they are fairly common occurrences, although usually one industry at a time.
And in those countries, yeah, don’t mess with the pension plans.
Public sector workers fear Macron’s reform will force them to work longer and shrink their pensions. Some private sector workers welcome the reform, but others support the strike.
The General Confederation of Labour – the largest trade union in France – said Macron’s pension reforms had triggered mass anger.
A spokesman said: ‘We have one of the best retirement systems in the world, if not the best. However, the president of the Republic decided, because of pure ideology, to annihilate it.’
Joseph Kakou, who works an overnight security shift in western Paris, walked an hour across the city to get home to the eastern side of town on Thursday morning.
‘It doesn’t please us to walk. It doesn’t please us to have to strike,’ Kakou said. ‘But we are obliged to, because we can’t work until 90 years old.
To Macron, the retirement reform is central to his plan to transform France so it can compete globally in the 21st century. The government argues France’s 42 retirement systems need streamlining.
Unfortunately, pensions are not cheap, and France does have one that is amazingly generous. That may be something Macron cannot get around.