Charles de Gaulle terminal blocked amid French pension protests | Protests News

French people are angry that the government is lifting the retirement age, and doing so without a parliamentary vote.

French workers angry that the pension age is being increased blocked access to a terminal at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on a day of nationwide protests.

The demonstrations on Thursday forced some travellers to get there on foot.

Train services were also disrupted and some schools shut while garbage piled up on the streets, and electricity output was cut, as unions pressured the government to withdraw the law that delays retirement by two years, changing it from age 62 to age 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 the airport’s terminal one would not impact flights, a spokesperson for Aeroports de Paris said.

Protestors hold a sign reading "We've got a job, it's not to die for" during a demonstration, a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution, in Nantes, western France, on March 23, 2023.
Protesters hold a sign reading ‘We’ve got a job, it’s not to die for’ during a demonstration a week after the government pushed a pensions reform through parliament without a vote, using Article 49.3 of the French Constitution, in Nantes, western France [Loic Venance/AFP]

Protest rallies were scheduled later in the day across the country, including in the northern city of Dunkirk.

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said the legislation – which his government pushed through the French Parliament without a vote last week – would come into force by year-end despite escalating tensions.

“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 General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union.

Paul Kantola, a 57-year-old carpenter, told the AFP news agency that he had to wake up at 5am to be able to get to work. However, he said he agreed with the protesters.

“It’s scary to grow old in these conditions. Already when you have a pension it’s not enough to live off,” said 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 draw a full pension.

Protests against the measures have raged since January.

‘Increased anger’

Most demonstrations have been peaceful, but anger has mounted since the government’s move last week.

The past seven nights have seen spontaneous demonstrations in Paris and other cities, with rubbish bins set ablaze and protesters scuffling with police.

Laurent Berger, the head of France’s biggest union, the moderate French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), told BFM TV the government must withdraw the pension law.

Macron’s comments “increased the anger”, he said.

A protester, holding a placard which reads "No to 49.3", a special clause in the French Constitution, to push the pensions reform bill through the National Assembly without a vote by lawmakers, attends a demontration to block Nice international airport
A protester holds a placard that reads ‘No to 49.3’ – a special clause in the French Constitution used to push the pensions reform bill through the National Assembly without a vote by lawmakers [Eric Gaillard/Reuters]

The schism represents the most serious challenge to Macron since the “Yellow Vest” revolt four years ago.

Polls show a wide majority of French citizens oppose the pension legislation and the decision to push it through without a parliamentary vote.

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.

Macron, 45, is in his second and final term, and says he’s convinced that France’s retirement system needs reform to keep it financed.

Opponents proposed other solutions, including higher taxes on the wealthy or companies, which Macron, a former economy minister, says would hurt the financial system.

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