On January 18th, France’s worker’s unions and other political activist groups united to launch a massive strike in the country. This is following an announcement by the government, which stated that pensions for 62 year old retirees would be cut and social security benefits would be reduced. Those on strike are demanding retirement security, the repeal of the law, and guarantees for better working benefits.
As part of his presidential campaign, Emmanuel Macron, now reelected, promised a massive “overhaul” (or reorganizing) of France’s pension system. The law put forth was controversial to say the least, leading to massive protests culminating in the strike. One notable change that was particularly disliked was the decision to raise the nation’s retirement age from 62 to 64, as well as cutting benefits for workers in energy, health, and education sectors of the economy.
As such, activist groups and trade unions united on Thursday to oppose the measures, with left leaning political parties in France supporting the movements. President Macron continues to discourage the protests, even saying the reasons for the strikes were based on “lies and disinformation.” According to reports from CNN and AP News, over one million people took to the streets, with the Wall Street Journal dubbing it “Black Thursday” as trains are halted and schools close.
While it is unclear how the strikes will end, similar strikes have occurred before, and, in those situations, the government usually concedes. A similar strike occurred under France’s former President, Jacques Chirac, resulting in concessions by the government to the workers and repealing a similar law meant to reform the welfare system. So, the country will watch to see if the protests will lead to a repeal of the law or if Macron’s government will continue to enact reforms.