France’s Transport Strike Will Hold Into A Third Month

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strikes against pension reforms have massive support in France (Picture via: libcom.org)

Reforms to the retirement age and state pension system proposed by the government of President Emmanuel Macron sparked a nationwide protest in France which began on December 5th. Although authorities announced that they would scrap plans to raise the retirement age to 64 in an exchange for concessions, there is still no agreement with the unions and a general strike, affecting mainly transport, food and fuel distribution and government departments is now set to continue into a third month.

While anybody with even the slightest understanding of France’s complex pensions and welfare benefits system, which allows people to retire in their 40s on almost full pay will probably agree with the president that the system needs reform, it is typical of the arrogance shown by former investment banker Macron that instead of approaching the problem gradually, in small steps he chose to provoke labour unions and trade associations by going in with all guns blazing.

Social unrest in France is never far from the news these days for though the best and most accurate reporting for English speakers can only be found in online news sites, while mainstream media sticks to the narrative that everything is under control in one of the European Union’s most ardently globalist member states. As we watch the European Union unravel as a result of policies aimed at turning 28 (soon to be 27) member states into a single, federal bureaucratic dictatorship run by a committee of faceless civil servants in Brussels, there is a mobid fascination in seeing how the three most rabidly federalist and politically correct members, Germany, France and Sweden are falling apart as a result of governments’ embracing EU globalist politicies instead of addressing the needs of their own nations.

Paris was once again at a near standstill on Monday as the general strike called by unionists and activist groups to protest against the reforms to the pension system planned by the government of President Macron, which unions and economists say would leave pensioned in poverty, closed communter line trains, buses and subways for a sixth week.

Macron, a deeply unpopular president from the beginning of his term of office, faces one of the toughest weeks yet of his presidency, that has already seen France rocked by terrorist attacks and life disrupted by the “Yellow Vests” protests against high taxes and EU immigration policies. Now his government’s planned redesign of the complex French pension system is in danger as prolonged civil unrest could force withdrawal of the policy.

Macron and his advisers failed to foresee the problems likely to result from combining 42 different retirement plans into one capable of delivering a more equitable, financially sustainable system. Unions claim the move s an attack on the French way of life even though the government does not plan to change the current retirement age of 62 at this time.

With people living longer it is inevitable the retirement age must rise at some point. What Macron failed to understand is how reluctant voters would be to give up a right. Instead of phasing in the higher retirement age gradually as the UK has, he charged in head — on.

Since the strike began in early December SNCF national rail network warned commuters and people making longer journeys to stay home or use “alternative means of locomotion” to get around Monday instead of thronging platforms in hopes of getting the few available trains running. Mysteriously, they have cited safety concerns as justification for their advice rather than admitting few trains would be running.

Because of the lack of trains and other forms of public transport, the national road authority has reported more than 600 kilometers (360 miles) of traffic jams at morning rush hour around the Paris region — up from 150 kilometers (90 miles) on an average day.

Traffic problems have been worse as the strike progressed than when the stoppages started last , because many French employees managed to work from home for a few days or take time off. But businesses cannot continue to run on that basis for long and as the strike continued the problems were exacerbated.

Though the situation for those needing to use public transport in France has improved slightly since the end of the Christmas / New Year holiday period, as people have formed car share clubs, bought electric scooters or bicycles, the nationwide strikes in protest at the government’s proposed reforms to labour law and retirement pensions are now certain to carry over into February. Official spokespeople claim there has been progress in negotiations with unions, but there is little observable evidence to support this.

However, the crisis hitting France, one of the world’s biggest economies at the height of the holiday season is far from over.

Encouraged by the biggest nationwide protests in decades, unions plan renewed protests on throughout the remainder of January and into February, and hope to keep up the pressure on Macron’s government until it is forced to withdraw the retirement reforms.

The reforms to retirement arrangements and pensions are central to Macron’s vision of transforming the French economy though considering his open doors immigartion policy which has seen unskilled, illiterate migrants flood into the country, what he plans to transform it into is unclear, a fairy princess maybe?. Government ministers insist the current system is unfair and financially unsustainable, while unions say the reform undercuts worker rights and will force people to work longer for less. Macron’s main political opponent, Eurosceptic Marine Le Pen, and her Rassemblement National party point out that the immigration policy is unfair and financially unsustainable.

Seeking to head off public anger, Macron asked veteran politician Jean-Paul Delevoye to hold months of meetings with workers, employers and others to come up with recommendations for France’s new retirement plan. A similar exercise of consultations at grass roots level with Yellow Vest protestors only served to deepen the division between the ruling elite and the people and Delevoye’s project seems to have had a similarly negative effect..

Anti-government protesters maintained the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron with a new march through Paris in yesterday afternoon. Some workers are determined to to maintain the general strike throughout the holiday period and into the New Year.

SNCF, the state owned rail system said about 60 per cent of trains were at a standstill, down from 90 per cent earlier in the strike but enough to disrupt life in the nation. Provincial cities have suffered fewer problems but in Paris tourists and commuters alike are still struggling to move around the French capital, due to buses and the subway system as well as local train servuces being hit by the industrial action.

The centrist Macron, a former investment banker, wants to raise the retirement age to 64 and says the current pension system costs too much; unions say the pension reform is part of Macron’s plans to dismantle hard-won worker rights, and want to preserve a system that allows some workers to leave as early as their fifties.

Many protestors are angry that while Macron insiststhe nation cannot afford to pay pensions the president is still inviting uneducated, unskilled, uncivilised, unemployable third world migrants to the country where they are fed, housed, educated and cared for at the expense of French taxpayers.

Speaking at a Town Hall meeting near Lyon after weeks of increasingly violent protests, the French president told unhappy citizens to “be aware of people who sell you dreams, that tell you all your anger can be solved by a referendum”, before dismissing Brexit as rubbish. Thus spake the man who, having said he would rule “in the style of a Roman God,” and promised he could solve all the problems of France and EU member states has succeeded, through a combination of higher taxes and more of the policies that had caused the problems in the first place, in movinf France from disillusionment to chaos.

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