Hundreds of thousands of workers, students and others took part in mass demonstrations in more than 100 rallies across France to reiterate their opposition to the neo-liberal social and labour reforms being imposed by the government of French President Emmanuel Macron.
The protesters demanded an increase in wages, pensions, gender equality and an end to privatization. According to organizers, more than 300,000 people, including workers, students, retirees and others participated in marches in more than a hundred places in the country. As many as 50,000 people protested in Paris alone.
The call to action issued jointly by six unions on August 30 denounced Macron’s « ideological policies targeting the destruction of our social model, favoring notably the explosion of inequality and the breaking of collective rights. » Participating unions in the October 9 action included those in the health, education, transport, postal and communication and metallurgy sectors.
Student unions and organizations the youth issued a joint press release on October 5 in which they stated, « Faced with reforms that deny us all rights in the future by closing the doors of higher education, by condemning us to precariousness throughout our lives (during our studies, during our professional integration but also at the time of retirement), the unions and young people, signatories of this text, call for a protest on October 9. »
The mass actions by the workers and youth underscores the crisis facing the French nation-state. Macron’s government, far from distancing itself from that of his predecessor François Hollande, has continued its retrogressive social and labour reforms and its permanent state of emergency.
The Macron government has slashed housing benefits, imposed taxes on pensions and restricted entry to university admissions. Various students organizations have been protesting against the derailment of universal access to education in the country. A rampant plan for privatization is also underway in the fields of energy and transportation. Privatization of airports and similar efforts in the railway sector had earlier invoked widespread protests from aviation workers and rail workers. The French government has also made conditions far more difficult for immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in France.
At the October 9 protest, the students, workers and retirees gave a fitting reply, chanting, « We’re not complaining, we’re revolting! » while carrying banners saying they have had enough of austerity and unemployment. Many of them said that Macron’s proposed welfare reforms will « disadvantage the weakest in society. » The elderly turned out to voice their disapproval of cuts to their pensions, which mean the difference between being able to make ends meet or not.
Unions are planning further mobilizations in the coming months on specific reforms such as changes to pensions and the unemployment insurance system.
(Photos: Force ouvrière, FSU section 54)