The French are angry that the government is lifting the retirement age, and doing so without a parliamentary vote.
French workers angry at the retirement age increase blocked access to a terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on a day of nationwide protests.
Thursday’s demonstrations forced some travelers to go there on foot.
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Train services were also disrupted and some schools closed while rubbish piled up in the streets and electricity production was halted, while trade unions pressured the government to withdraw the law that postpones retirement by two years and changes it from age 62 to age 64 .
Plumes of smoke rose from burning piles of rubble blocking traffic on a motorway near Toulouse, in southwest France, and wildcat strikes also briefly blocked roads in other cities.
The spontaneous protest at the airport’s terminal 1 would not affect flights, an Aeroports de Paris spokesman said.
Protesters hold a sign reading “We have a job, it’s not to die for” during a demonstration a week after the government pushed a pension reform through parliament without a vote, using Article 49.3 of the French constitution, in Nantes, western France (Loïc Venance/AFP)
Protest rallies were planned across the country later in the day, including in the northern city of Dunkirk.
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President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that the legislation — which his government pushed through France’s parliament without a vote last week — will come into force by the end of the year, despite escalating tensions.
“The best answer we can give the president is that there are millions of people on strike and on the streets,” said Philippe Martinez, who heads the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) union.
Paul Kantola, a 57-year-old carpenter, told AFP news agency that he had to get up at 5 a.m. to get to work. However, he said he agreed with the protesters.
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“It is scary to grow old in these conditions. Even if you have a pension, it is not enough to live on,” says Kantola, who lives in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre.
The policy changes accelerate a planned increase in the number of years one must work to receive a full pension.
There have been protests against the measures since January.
Most demonstrations have been peaceful, but anger has increased since the government’s decision last week.
Spontaneous demonstrations have erupted in Paris and other cities over the past seven nights, with rubbish bins set on fire and demonstrators clashing with police.
Laurent Berger, the head of France’s largest union, the moderate French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT), told BFM TV that the government should repeal the pension law.
Macron’s comments “increased anger,” he said.
A protester holds a sign reading ‘No to 49.3’ – a special clause in the French constitution used to push the pension reform law through the National Assembly without a vote by lawmakers (Eric Gaillard/ Reuters)
The schism represents Macron’s biggest challenge since the Yellow Vest uprising four years ago.
Polls show that a large majority of French citizens oppose the pension legislation and the decision to pass it without a parliamentary vote.
Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt said the government does not deny the tensions, but wants to move on.
“There is a disagreement that will continue over the retirement age. On the other hand, there are many topics that allow renewed dialogue,” he said, including how companies share their profits with employees.
“Things will happen gradually,” he said.
Macron, 45, is in his second and final term in office and says he is convinced the French pension system needs to be reformed to keep it funded.
Opponents proposed other solutions, including higher taxes on the wealthy or businesses, which Macron, a former economy minister, said would hurt the financial system.