French police clashed with black-clad anarchists in Paris and other big cities during trade union-organized protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s increase in the retirement age on International Labor Day, May 1.
Pots and pans demo greets Macron at medical center in Loire region
French President Emmanuel Macron visited a medical center in the Loire region on Tuesday, and was met by the banging of pots and pans by protesters…
In the French capital, police were pelted with projectiles, ride-sharing bicycles were torched and bus stops smashed up just as the union-led march got underway from the central Place de la République, while Extinction Rebellion activists threw paint over the glass-fronted facade of the Louis Vuitton Foundation and paving stones outside the Ritz Hotel.
Unrest also erupted in Lyon, where several vehicles were set ablaze and some business premises were trashed, television images showed. In Nantes in western France, a fire blazed in front of a local administration building.
Macron last month raised the retirement age by two years to 64 despite multi-sector strikes, in a move that drove his popularity down to near the record lows seen during the “Yellow Vest” crisis of 2018-2019.
The reform has crystallized discontent against a president perceived by many as aloof and indifferent to their daily hardships, and he has been met during walkabouts by heckling and pot-banging.
“The executive cannot govern without the support of its people,” Sophie Binet, leader of the hard-left CGT union, said ahead of the Paris protest, adding her union had not yet decided on talks with the government on other work-related matters.
Laurent Berger, head of the reform-minded CFDT trade union, said Macron’s government had been deaf to the demands of one of the most powerful social movements in decades.
He dismissed suggestions that a rare alliance between the leading trade unions was being tested now that the pension bill had been signed into law.
“We must bring other proposals over salaries and working conditions to the table,” he told BFM TV.
Macron says the French reform is needed to help shore up one of the industrialized world’s most generous pension systems.
French pension payments as a share of pre-retirement earnings are comfortably higher than elsewhere and a French man typically spends longer in retirement than those in other OECD nations.
Trade unions say the money can be found elsewhere.
Macron’s government, which lacks a working majority in parliament, rammed the pension legislation through without a final vote due to a lack of cross-party support.
A hardening of the political opposition risks complicating the rest of his reform agenda, including an employment bill that would require those receiving the minimum welfare benefit to work or get training for 15-20 hours per week.
Fitch cut France’s sovereign credit rating on Friday by one notch to “AA-”, saying that the social unrest and potential political deadlock posed risks to Macron’s agenda.