Yoopya with Reuters
French workers angry with a rise in the pension age blocked access to a terminal at Paris’ Roissy-Charles De Gaulle airport on Thursday as part of a nationwide day of protests, forcing some travellers to get there on foot.
Train services were disrupted and some schools shut while garbage piled up on the streets, and electricity output was cut as unions raised pressure on the government to withdraw the law which delays retirement by two years to 64.
Plumes of smoke were seen rising from burning piles of debris blocking traffic on a highway near Toulouse, in southwestern France, and wildcat strikes briefly blocked roads in other cities as well.
The spontaneous protest near Roissy’s terminal one would not impact flights, a spokesperson for Aeroports de Paris said.
Protest rallies were scheduled across the country later in the day, while protests also targeted oil depots and blocked an LNG terminal in the northern city of Dunkirk.
President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said the legislation – which his government pushed through parliament without a vote last week – would come into force by year-end despite escalating anger across the country.
The best response we can give the president is that there are millions of people on strike and in the streets, said Philippe Martinez, who leads the hardline CGT union.
Protests against the policy changes, which also accelerate a planned increase of the number of years one must work to draw a full pension, have drawn huge crowds in rallies organised by unions since January.
Most protests have been peaceful, but anger has mounted since the government pushed the bill through parliament without a vote last week.
The past seven nights have seen spontaneous demonstrations in Paris and other cities with rubbish bins set ablaze and scuffles with police.
Laurent Berger, the head of France’s biggest union, the moderate CFDT, told BFM TV the government must withdraw the pension law. Macron’s comments increased the anger, he said.
The latest wave of protests represents the most serious challenge to the president’s authority since the Yellow Vest revolt four years ago. Polls show a wide majority of French opposed to the pension legislation as well as the government’s decision to push it through parliament without a vote.
It’s a good thing that people are still mobilising, and that people stand up for their beliefs, 26-year old engineer Jean Walter said at the Paris Saint-Lazare train station, where many trains were cancelled.
I’m supporting the strike, even if it will take more time to go to work today.
Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt said the government was not in denial about the tensions but wanted to move on.
There is a disagreement that will persist on the retirement age. On the other hand, there are many subjects which make it possible to renew a dialogue, he said, including how companies share their profits with workers.
Things will be done gradually, he said.