French Protestors Storm Streets Over Pension Age Reform


Gaëlle Boursier

French protestors in Paris.

As the French government forces its way into passing a reform without parliamentary vote regarding pension changes, workers started to strike and protest across the country. 

For three decades, the successive governments from varying political sides have tried and failed to reform the French retirement pension system. Currently, people must work until they are a minimum of 62 years old before they are allowed to retire.  Last May, when Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, was re-elected for a second term, he promised to create changes in that area, by raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old, despite reluctance from most of the French population. The month following the election, he failed to obtain the majority vote (287 votes) that he needed in Parliament, only getting 278, which kept him from pushing his political agenda.

Over the past few months, the main subject for the government has been to consult its political opponents and to talk to the unionists who have close ties with workers and the economy. Although they did not find common ground, the Prime Minister of France, Elisabeth Borne,  decided to apply the reforms and implement the new laws using the “49:3”–an article from the French constitution that forces bills to pass without needing the majority of votes. 

This government decision to surpass parliamentary vote and force these changes led to outrage across the country and within political classes. Over the weekend of March 18 and 19th, people protested in the streets of France in opposition to this widely unpopular ruling, gathering and marching while holding signs against the government. 

Gaëlle Boursier, a student in Paris, said, “As students we feel very angry as the government keeps proving that they do not find us important. We’re just getting the impression that we will die working.” Demonstrators, including unionists from transportation systems and garbage workers, started blocking the tracks and stopped collecting waste. In order to control these protests, police have started using riot gear. 

While recalling her experience in France, Madame Aleiner, the French teacher here at San Marcos, said, “I remember I was struck by the sense of unity and mutual help that existed during the strike. When you hear strike, it seems like a scary word but there, in the moment, it was not. However, I think that what’s happening now is way more escalated.”

Despite this nation-wide uproar, Macron still has trust in his plans. In response to the forceful passing of the reforms, his opponents tried to block his government but fell short by nine votes.

This leaves many wondering if these unions could force the repeal of the plan to raise the retirement age. Thursday, March 23 was the next big day planned for these strikes, though anger has already been triggering walkouts and stoppages everywhere.