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06.02.2020 Europe

French protesters back on streets as pension reform debate rumbles on

By Christina Okello - RFI
LISTEN FEB 6, 2020

Opponents of the French government's pension reform returned to the streets of France on Thursday in a fresh bid to force President Emmanuel Macron to ditch the overhaul of the country's pension system, despite falling numbers.

Thursday sees the latest episode in France's rumbling strike action, with demonstrations planned in several cities, including the capital.

In Paris, the march kicked off at 13H30 local time at Gare de l'Est in the east of the city and headed towards place de la Nation further south.

The motivation of the protesters remains the same. They want the government to scrap "an unfair and dangerous project," which has become the leitmotiv of the five left unions behind Thursday's industrial action.

The last interprofessional strike on 30 January mobilised 108,000 people in France according to the interior ministry, far less than the 249,000 protesters that took to the streets the week before.

Ongoing mess
With their large-scale actions petering out, unions are increasingly resorting to wildcat actions to cause disruption.

Rubbish has been piling up on sidewalks in several parts of Paris after days of blockades at the city's incineration plants. 

The hardline CGT union was due to hold talks with its allies after the protests to decide whether to continue their industrial action. Some of its members walked out on the job, forcing the Eiffel Tower to close.

Earlier this week, the contested draft law reached parliament, where it is already undergoing 22,000 amendments.

Union leaders know that they have now or never to force the government to back down.

On 17 February, the reform bill will be subject to debate in Parliament where Macron's Republic on the Move party holds a majority and is widely expected to push through the overhaul by summer.

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