FRENCH: Unions Buoyant As 1.27 Million French Protest Pension Reform
PARIS, France — According to the Interior Ministry, an estimated 1.27 million people took to the streets of French cities, towns, and villages on Tuesday in massive protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age by two years.
In a big win for labor unions, more people showed up than at the last round of strikes and protests against the proposed pension system changes. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne had to say that her government “hears” the “questions and doubts” raised by reforms that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.
The eight unions that organized the protests announced new demonstrations for February 7 and 11.
“In the face of widespread opposition, the government must pull back on its reform,” said Patricia Drevon of the Workers’ Force union, who stood with other union members in a rare public show of unity.
According to the powerful CGT union, 2.8 million protesters marched in french on Tuesday.
The Franch Love To Strike
National strikes and protests were a litmus test for Macron and his opponents. The government has said that it is determined to keep Macron’s promise to change French pension system, which he made during the election. But a lot of people will be against the bill, which will help labor unions and left-leaning lawmakers stop it.
Later Tuesday, Prime Minister Borne extended a tentative olive branch to protesters and unions, tweeting: “The retirement reform raises questions and doubts. We can hear them.”
This means that changes are possible, but not necessarily a full withdrawal, which is what protesters have been calling for. According to her tweet, the upcoming debate in parliament “will allow us… to enrich our project with a goal” of ensuring the future of France’s pension system. “We bear responsibility.”
Borne recently stated that raising the retirement age to 64 is “no longer negotiable.” On Monday, Macron defended the reform as “vital.”
According to police, 87,000 people took to the streets in the capital, up from 80,000 in the first major pension protest on Jan. 19, when authorities claimed 1 million people demonstrated nationwide. Estimates from the union had more than doubled that figure.
Radicals And Riot Police Clash
The otherwise peaceful Paris march was marred by sporadic clashes between a small group of black-clad radicals and riot police, who fired tear gas near Les Invalides, the site of Napoleon’s tomb, where the march ended. There were 30 arrests there and along the route, according to police.
11,000 police officers were on duty for an estimated 250 protests across the country.
“The government is currently backed into a corner. “It only needs to withdraw its reform,” Erik Meyer of the Sud Rail union, one of eight unions that organized the march, told BFM TV.
Veteran left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon praised the protests as “historic” and predicted Macron’s defeat.
“We don’t see such a mass mobilization very often,” he said in the southern city of Marseille. “It’s a type of citizen insurgency.”
The demonstrations were not limited to France’s major cities. On Ouessant, a tiny western isle of about 800 people off the coast of Brittany, about 100 protesters gathered outside Mayor Denis Palluel’s office and marched, he said.
Retiring At A Reasonable Age Is Important To The French People
The prospect of having to work longer hours alarmed mariners on the island with difficult ocean-going jobs, according to Palluel.
“It’s important to retire at a reasonable age because life expectancy isn’t very long,” he says.
Protests by people of all ages were loud and colorful, with sirens, bullhorns, and smoke bombs, continuing a long tradition of taking democracy to the streets in France.
Strikes disrupted services across France on Tuesday, in addition to the protests.
According to SNCF, most train services in Paris, other regions, and France’s flagship high-speed network connecting cities and major towns have been disrupted. Station closures and cancellations also impacted the Paris Metro.
Power workers in key positions, who are not allowed to go on strike, showed their support for protesters by temporarily cutting electricity supplies without causing blackouts, according to the company that makes the electricity, EDF.
Local Striking Impacted Schools
Civil servant Jamila Sariac, 60, believes the pension system should be left alone.
“Social protection is a milestone of our society, a milestone that the government wishes to break,” she said, adding that strikes would put more pressure on the government than protests. “We owe it to our forefathers who contributed to France’s wealth.”
Said Belaiba, who works in construction, was one of the people whose train from Paris to Lyon in the morning was canceled, so he had to wait. Nonetheless, the 62-year-old said he was opposed to the proposed reform.
“My job is physically demanding,” he admitted. “You can’t keep going past 64.”
Strikes also impacted schools, with the Education Ministry reporting that roughly one-quarter of teachers remained absent from work — fewer than in the previous round of protests.
Walkouts in oil refineries were also reported in French media. Because of the strike, radio station France Inter played music instead of its usual morning talk shows and apologized to its listeners.
SOURCE – (AP)
Strike Over Pay Paralyzes Rail, Air Travel In Germany
BERLIN — Trains, aircraft, and public transportation systems were grounded across most of Germany on Monday as labor unions launched a big one-day strike over pay to obtain inflation-busting raises for their members.
The 24-hour strike, one of the country’s largest in decades, also impacted cargo movement by train and ship as workers at the country’s ports and waterways joined the strike.
Many commuters chose to travel to work, generating some traffic delays, while those who could work from home did so.
Unions are seeking a 10.5% pay increase and have rejected employer offers of approximately 5% over two years plus one-time bonuses.
According to Ulrich Silberbach of the Civil Service Federation, high inflation observed everywhere last year affected many workers hard.
“We have seen a drop in real wages, which needs to be balanced,” he told reporters in Berlin, adding that some of his union’s members in major cities must request public assistance to pay their rent.
Silberbach expressed hope that employers will raise their offer in the next discussions or that unions would be forced to consider an open-ended strike.
Three days of talks are scheduled between the two sides.
His EVG train union colleague Martin Burkert noted that workers’ salaries are a fraction of some senior executives’ salaries.
However, Deutsche Bahn dismissed the union’s proposals as overblown and warned that millions of commuters would be affected.
“Thousands of companies that normally send or receive goods by rail will also suffer,” said Achim Strauss, a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn. “In the end, the environment and the climate will suffer.” The oil companies are today’s winners.”
He said that train tickets that couldn’t be used because of the disruption would remain valid, and travelers should check the company’s website for updates.
The strike caused inconvenience and delays Sunday.
Three days of talks are scheduled between the two sides. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, representing the federal government in the talks, said her side would be “tough but fair and constructive” in the discussions.
Faeser expressed confidence that a satisfactory solution may be found.
Labor strikes are common in Germany, and they usually conclude with a compromise agreement reached between unions and employers.
The strike caused inconvenience and delays Sunday as travelers hurried to reach their destinations early.
SOURCE – (AP)
UN Head Says Survival Depends On How People Manage Water In 2023
WATER The United Nations Humanity’s survival depends on how people manage water, said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday at the close of a three-day conference on global water resources, during which developing countries made urgent requests for assistance with cleaner drinking water and better sanitation.
In his final remarks, Guterres stated, “All of humanity’s hopes for the future depend, in some way, on charting a new course to sustainably manage and conserve water.”
He stated that water “needs to be at the center of the global political agenda” and that this implies more aggressive action against climate change.
According to the United Nations World Water Development Report, released on the eve of the conference, 26% of the world’s population—2 billion people — lacks access to safe drinking water, while 46% — 3.6 billion people — lack access to basic sanitation. According to UN studies, nearly half the world’s population will face acute water stress by 2030.
Many rhetorical pledges to enhance water supply were made at the conference, but there needed to be more precise commitments to translate aspirations into better daily lives for regular people.
Throughout the meeting, water-stressed states, particularly those in the developing world
“We have such lovely, ambitious initiatives,” said Lina Taing, senior researcher at the global think tank United Nations University.
“We know that we are completely off track,” she stated, regarding providing them with clean water and sanitation. Taing stated that the world’s actions must be increased “fourfold.”
Throughout the meeting, water-stressed states, particularly those in the developing world, told U.N. members of their need for international aid to provide their people with drinking water and sanitation facilities.
“Waging a war on two fronts at the same time to address water issues and climate change is no easy task, especially for a small island nation like Kiribati, which has very limited resources at its disposal,” said Teburoro Tito, the United Nations representative for the Pacific island nation of fewer than 200,000 people. He claimed that Kiribati was particularly unprepared to deal with natural calamities.
SOURCE – (AP)
1 Million March In France, Unions Call New Pension Protests
PARIS MARCH — After more than a million people rallied across France on Thursday against unpopular pension reforms, French unions called for further statewide strikes and protests the following week, coinciding with King Charles III’s anticipated visit to France.
According to the Interior Ministry, the march in Paris attracted 119,000 participants, setting a record for the city’s capital during the pension demonstrations. However, as were many other marches, the march was plagued by violence. According to polls, most French people are against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, which he claims is vital to maintain the system.
The unions quickly announced fresh demonstrations and strikes for Tuesday, the day the British king is expected to visit Bordeaux as part of his trip to France, building on the significant turnout. According to the Sud Ouest newspaper, on Thursday night, participants in an unofficial demonstration set fire to and completely demolished the heavy wooden entrance of the Bordeaux City Hall.
According to the ministry, in cities and towns around the nation on Thursday, more than a million people participated in protest marches.
Gerald Darmanin, the interior minister, went to the police headquarters on Thursday night march as fires were still raging in some Parisian neighborhoods hours after the march had concluded.
The protests were conducted the day after Macron infuriated his detractors even more by refusing to back down on the retirement bill that his administration rushed through parliament without a vote.
The eight unions organizing the protests march stated that “while the (president) tries to turn the page, this social and union movement… confirms the determination of the world of workers and youth to obtain the withdrawal of the reform.” On Tuesday, further nationwide strikes and protests were called for in addition to localized action this weekend.
Thursday night march as fires were still raging in some Parisian neighborhoods
Strikes disrupted travel as demonstrators surrounded ports, refineries, and Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
In Paris, clashes between police and groups wearing black masks that attacked at least two fast food establishments, a supermarket, and a bank reflected the violence’s escalation and diverted attention from the tens of thousands of nonviolent demonstrators.
Police charged repeatedly and fired tear gas to disperse the protestors after being attacked with objects and pyrotechnics. After the march, protesters gathered at the Place de l’Opera, partially obscured by a tear gas haze. The “radical elements,” according to the police, number around 1,000 persons.
Other marches were plagued by violence, particularly in Lyon in the southeast and the western cities of Nantes, Rennes, and Lorient, where an administrative building was stormed, its courtyard set ablaze, and its windows destroyed.
The nine union-organized rallies around the country on Thursday were the ninth to occur since January, when opponents of Macron’s proposal to raise the retirement age still hoped that parliament would reject it. However, the administration used a unique constitutional provision to force it through.
In a French interview on Wednesday, Macron remained steadfast in his belief that new legislation is required to maintain retirement funds. Other suggestions made by opponents included raising taxes on the affluent or businesses, which according to Macron, would harm the economy. He maintained that by the end of the year, the government’s law to raise the retirement age must be implemented.
The proposal now has to be approved by the Constitutional Council. But the opposition won’t give up.
The strikes on Thursday caused the Eiffel Tower and the Versailles Palace.
The chief of the moderate CFDT labor union, Laurent Berger, “We are trying to say before the law is enacted… that we have to find a way out and we continue to say that the way out is the withdrawal of the law.”
Public transportation networks in other significant cities, the Paris metro, and high-speed and regional trains were all affected. At Paris Orly Airport, almost 30% of scheduled flights were canceled.
The strikes on Thursday caused the Eiffel Tower and the Versailles Palace, where the British monarch will dine with Macron, to be shuttered.
Violence, a regular problem during demonstrations, has been worse recently. 12,000 security personnel, including 5,000 in Paris, would be on French streets on Thursday, according to Gerald Darmanin.
In a statement, the Education Ministry stated that 15% of instructors in high schools and roughly 24% of primary and intermediate school teachers took a sick day on Thursday.
Several hundred strikers wielding flares and yelling, “Macron, go away,” marched on the Paris Gare de Lyon train station rails to stop trains from moving. They were carrying flares.
Maxime Monin, 46, expressed concern that his and other public transportation workers’ holidays this year might be less enjoyable. He emphasized that such workers are not paid on strike days. But the price was worthwhile.
A bus depot in Pantin, in the northern suburbs of Paris, was blocked by several dozen union members during rush hour, preventing 200 vehicles from leaving.
A 48-year-old bus driver involved in the protest, Nadia Belhoum, condemned Macron’s choice to push through the higher retirement age.
She declared, “The president of the Republic is not a monarch, and he should listen to his people.
SOURCE – (AP)
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