Protests held in France amid anger at Macron’s pension reform

Strikes and demonstrations in refineries are taking place across France in anger over the government’s raising of the state pension age.

Refinery strikes have been held across France and demonstrations have increased across the country over widespread anger against the government for raising the state pension age without a parliamentary vote.

The growing unrest, coupled with rubbish piling up in the streets of Paris after garbage collectors joined the action, has presented President Emmanuel Macron with the biggest challenge to his authority since the so-called “Gilets Jaunes”, or yellow vests protests, which began in late 2018.

Thirty-seven percent of operating staff at TotalEnergies refineries and depots — at locations including Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north — were on strike Saturday, a company spokesman said.

Rolling strikes continued on the railways.

Riot police clashed with demonstrators in Paris on Friday night when a demonstration took place on the Place de la Concorde near the National Assembly building. Sixty-one people were arrested.

This prompted the Paris prefecture to ban rallies on the Place de la Concorde and the nearby Champs-Elysees. The police said they were doing this “due to serious risks of public order disturbance”.

However, another rally was expected on Saturday at Place d’Italie in the south of Paris.

Elsewhere in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the Permanent Revolution collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping mall, waving banners calling for a general strike and chanting: “Paris, rise! Get up,” videos posted on social media showed.

People marched in towns and cities across the country after regional unions called for a weekend of protests. BFM television also showed footage of demonstrations going on in cities such as Marseille, Compiègne and Nantes.

“There is no place for violence. One must respect parliamentary democracy,” Jean-Noel Barrot, Minister of Digital Transition and Telecommunications, told Sud Radio.

Ariane Laget, 36, was one of about 200 protesters in the small southern town of Lodeve.

‘We’re fed up. We feel that we are being trampled and that no one is listening,” she told AFP news agency.

A broad alliance of France’s main unions has said it will continue to mobilize to try and force a turnaround in pension changes. A national day of action is planned for Thursday.

People protest in Nantes, France [Stephane Mahe/Reuters]

Eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January and many local union actions have been largely peaceful so far, but the unrest of the past three days is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests, which erupted over high fuel prices and forced Macron into a partial shutdown . -enable a carbon tax.

Macron’s revision raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not go bankrupt.

The government has said the change is necessary to prevent the system from going into deficit and to bring France into line with its European neighbours, where the statutory retirement age tends to be higher.

But critics say the changes are unfair to people who start working at a young age in physically demanding jobs and women who interrupt their careers to raise children.