The demonstration against the pension reform on January 9, 2019, in Toulouse. - FRED SCHEIBER / SIPA
- Between 1.7 million (according to the CGT) and 452,000 people (according to the government) marched this Thursday to request the withdrawal of the pension reform.
- On the 36th day of mobilization, this participation, admittedly slightly down, shows that "the dynamic is not broken" according to a specialist in social movements.
- The Prime Minister will receive nine unions on Friday to try to find a compromise on this highly contested bill.
It was the first demonstration of 2020 against the government's pension reform. Hundreds of thousands of French people marched this Thursday in several cities to demand the withdrawal of the bill, on the eve of a series of meetings between the executive and the unions.
This fourth national demonstration gathered fewer people than the last one, on December 17, but more than that of December 10, and very many strikers in transport, teaching or refineries. In Paris, tensions between demonstrators and law enforcement officials enamelled the procession in the late afternoon.
Strong mobilization after 36 days of strike
The CGT claimed responsibility for nearly 1.7 million people in 216 processions in France, while the Interior Ministry estimated the mobilization at 452,000 demonstrators. These figures are lower than those of the first demonstration, on December 5. In the capital, participation is increasing according to the unions, which numbers 370,000 people, but it has slightly decreased according to the police, with 56,000 demonstrators.
"Even if we are below the gauge of December 5, the dynamic is not broken," observes the historian of social movements Stéphane Sirot. "The government can obviously not boast of an exhaustion of the challenge."
Moreover, the rates of strikers were maintained in certain categories. A third of railway workers went on strike, according to SNCF management, like on 17 December, 67% of whom were train drivers (they were 76% on 17). In education, the ministry spoke of 19% of strikers in primary and 16% in secondary, against 40% and 50% according to the unions, figures down slightly from December 17.
The showdown continues
On the eve of a series of meetings between the Prime Minister and the unions, the discussion still seems to be deadlocked on the “age of equilibrium”, a measure supposed to guarantee the financial equilibrium of the pension system. "If the pivotal age remains in the law, it's no, it's clear," said Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, a union known as "reformist", on Thursday. "" I withdraw the pivotal age measure "must be the words of the Prime Minister," added his counterpart from Unsa, Laurent Escure.
But the Minister of Action and Public Accounts Gérald Darmanin defended this measure. "The government continues to believe that the pivotal age is a fair and effective measure. What is certain is that we have to work a little longer, "Gérald Darmanin told Le Figaro newspaper. Even if this measure, criticized by the CFDT, was withdrawn from the government's plan, other unions, including the CGT or FO, continue to demand the withdrawal of the bill, as do many demonstrators.
"Nothing says that the movement will stop if a solution found tomorrow on the pivotal age, between the government and the unions," said Stéphane Sirot. “It is not necessarily decisive for the people who demonstrate against the reform. And the influence of the CFDT is minimal on the strikers ”.
The executive calendar is in any case well timed. Nine unions will be received Friday, in turn, in Matignon, during 45-minute meetings. Will be received first, from 8:30 am, the general secretary of Unsa Laurent Lescure, that of FO Yves Veyrier, that of CGT Philippe Martinez, the boss of U2P Alain Griset then that of Medef Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux . Then, in the afternoon, the president of the CFE-CGC François Hommeril will succeed, the secretary general of the CFDT Laurent Berger and the president of the CFTC Cyril Chabanier. The government is due to present its bill on January 24 in the Council of Ministers, and expects to adopt the reform before the summer.
Pension reform: What scenario for the pivotal age (and for funding)?
January 9 strike: "A step back on the pivotal age, we don't care, that's the whole project we want the government to withdraw"
- Pension reform