- Macron says he won’t budge on pension law
- Unions anger protesters
- Ninth day of strike
PARIS, March 23 (Reuters) – French workers angered by President Emmanuel Macron and his plan to raise the retirement age blocked entry to a terminal at Paris’ main airport on Thursday as part of a nationwide protest, forcing some passengers to leave. on foot.
At Roissy-Charles De Gaulle airport and across the country, wildcat actions by small groups of protesters blocked roads and access to schools and universities, while protesters gathered with “No to pension reform” banners.
A plume of smoke rose from burning piles of debris blocking highway traffic near Toulouse in the southwest. BFM TV footage also showed union activists blocking train tracks at Paris’s Gare de Lyon station.
Polls have long shown that most voters oppose delaying the retirement age by two years to 64.
Voters were further angered by the government’s decision last week to push pension changes through parliament without a referendum.
“I’m on strike against the pension reform and against what’s happening in the government,” Lucille Bidet, a 27-year-old Air France programming officer, told a rally in Nantes.
“They don’t listen to people anymore.”
Macron broke weeks of silence on the new policy, saying he stood firm and that the law would be in place by the end of the year, at one point comparing the protests to an attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Laurent Berger, head of the moderate CFDT, France’s largest trade union, told BFM TV that Macron’s comments “increased anger”.
“He is the one who set the country on fire,” Céline Vercelletti of the hardline CGT union told France Inter radio station.
Power generation was also cut on Thursday as unions pressured the government to withdraw the law. France’s civil aviation authority said flights would continue to be reduced over the weekend.
Protests targeted oil depots and blocked an LNG terminal in the northern city of Dunkirk.
Protests against the new law, which accelerates a planned increase in the number of years of work required to earn a full pension, have drawn huge crowds at rallies organized by unions since January.
Most of the protests have been peaceful, but anger has grown since the government boycotted a vote in the lower house of parliament, where it does not have an absolute majority and is not guaranteed to have enough support.
Since then, Paris and other cities have seen trash-can-burning demonstrations and clashes with police over the past seven nights.
The latest wave of protests is the most serious challenge to the president’s authority since the “yellow uniform” uprising four years ago.
“France Street is a legal one. If Mr Macron doesn’t remember this historical reality, I don’t know what he’s doing here,” Willy Mansell, a 42-year-old entertainment worker, told the Nantes rally.
Losing paid days during a strike takes a toll in times of high inflation, and the government hopes that protests and strikes will eventually lose steam.
Macron said on Wednesday he had tasked his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, with finding more support for the government. He said he wants unions to be more involved in upcoming policy changes on issues including schools, health or the environment.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said the government was not in denial about the tensions but wanted to move forward.
“There are many lessons that make it possible to renew a conversation,” he said, about how companies share their profits with workers.
Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Forrest Grellin, John Irish, Sudip Kar-Gupta, Lucien Libert, Stephen Mahé, Eric Gaillard; By Ingrid Melander; Editing: Christina Fincher
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