France strikes: Furious Macron protests to spark Christmas chaos

3 min

Philippe Martinez, the secretary general of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), said the strike would only be halted “if the government withdraws its plan” of pension reform. He told BFMTV: “Otherwise the strikers will decide what they have to do Thursday or Friday. The union members of the CGT will also spend Christmas with their children, with their families.

“This is a serious matter, and I think that the government cannot always transfer the responsibility to those who react because they consider that the project is bad.”

A swathe of chaotic protests have swept across France since President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension overhaul was first announced.


Most unions have outright rejected the government’s plans to merge the country’s 42 separate pension schemes into a single, points-based system giving workers equal rights.

Mr Martinez revealed he received a phone call on Thursday from French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

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Trade unions are striking against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms (Image: GETTY)

The head of the trade union said: “He did not tell me that the door was open, he must have forgotten and he did not tell me that negotiations were resuming, he must have forgotten that too.

“I was surprised, he didn’t talk to me about bilateral talks, saying that no appointment had been made.”

The head of the French government called the unions on Thursday and invited the France’s largest union, The French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) in particular to a meeting “as soon as possible next week”.

Laurent Berger, the head of the CFDT, did not wish to confirm whether he would attend the meeting or not.

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It would be “difficult” to organise such a meeting before Tuesday, said the Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn on Sunday, in reference to the day of strikes and demonstrations that has been called by all the unions.

Demonstrations against the government’s reforms have escalated across France forcing police chief Didier Lallement to ban anti-government protesters from the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris to prevent an outbreak of violence.

Mr Lallement has also banned protesters from gathering near the presidential palace, the prime minister’s official residence, the national assembly, Paris police headquarters and Notre-Dame cathedral.

He announced the ban on Friday after similar protests earlier this month were marred by chaos and looting.


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Shops, bars and restaurants located along the protest route in Paris will have to stay closed, Mr Lallement added, citing a tense social backdrop to the ongoing transport strikes and protests.

Business owners have been urged to clear terraces, counter-terraces and displays and remove all furniture, equipment and commercial fittings that could be used by rioters as projectiles or weapons.

French retailers, restaurants and hoteliers have for their part warned that their crunch Christmas season could be derailed if the unrest drags on for much longer.

Trade unions are gearing up for mass protests today against the reform plan today.

This will be the third day of mass protest action in under two weeks, and the rally is expected to attract tens of thousands of people from a range of professions, including transport workers, teachers, police, lawyers and hospital staff.

Unions are hoping for a repeat of 1995 when they forced the government to drop its pension reform after three weeks of metro and rail strikes and street protests just before Christmas.


President Emmanuel Macron’s government, however, is determined to see the pension reform through to the end.

Defying union anger, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said last week France would replace an unwieldy and indebted system made up of 42 separate plans with a universal, points-based system giving every pensioner the same rights for each euro contributed.

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