June 1, 2023

Pensions: 49.3 causes a surge of social fever

The use of 49.3 to pass the pension reform on Thursday blew on the embers. The mobilizations multiplied all weekend all over France. A new illustration of the highly decentralized nature of the protest movement.

The initiatives were very diverse. On Saturday, in Sarthe, demonstrators threw rolls of toilet paper at the gate of the prefecture of Le Mans while in Montpellier, they invaded the tracks of the station. On the same day, nearly 200 of them gathered in Givet, in the Ardennes, while hundreds of people blocked the expressway in Chambéry and a picnic was organized in the center of Cahors.

Fever outbreak

Paris, of course, was also the scene of daily demonstrations. There, as elsewhere in France, the mobilization was not massive but significant: some 4,200 people were counted according to the police at the start of the Place d’Italie on Saturday evening. The Parisian situation reflected the protest effervescence caused by 49.3.

In contrast to previous meetings, this effervescence was accompanied by a bout of fever. But if clashes broke out, with throwing of projectiles, trash fires and small barricades, the violence remained contained. “Les Echos” thus noted that on Saturday evening, customers continued to dine quietly while in the avenue de Choisy demonstrators and police officers warmed each other.

These events are nonetheless the sign of a real outbreak of fever. They open a period of uncertainty on the turn that the protest could take and in particular the ninth day of national mobilization, Thursday.

Period of uncertainty

Philippe Martinez explained, Sunday noon, on BFMTV that he “does not understand[ait] not that the government and especially the President of the Republic did not take into account [les] alerts [des syndicats] “. In a letter sent on March 9, to which the Head of State opposed an end of inadmissibility, their leaders warned Emmanuel Macron against “a situation which could become explosive”. “It is his responsibility if the anger is at this level”, estimated the leader of the CGT, while condemning as “always” “the violence on the sidelines of the demonstrations”.

With the support of the French who are undeniable according to the polls published after 49.3, the CGT leader, who will hand over at the end of the month, predicted “a lot of people on Thursday”, even if the stakes of purchasing power weigh. And he swept away the fears of seeing the unions overwhelmed. However, the risk is real. “The risk is that the cap of the pressure cooker jumps”, sums up the leader of a trade union federation. “The problem is the lack of outlets for anger,” explains a former trade unionist.

Tensions in several sectors

Among the unknowns revealed by the mobilizations of this weekend, however, also figures prominently the attitude of young people. They were numerous for example in Paris in the various parades, where the slogans castigating the attacks on democracy were very present. If the unions are well associated with student organizations and high school students, so far, the youth has not engaged. “Retirement is a subject very far from them, the denial of democracy of 49.3 could bring them back into the movement; instead of the executive, that would worry me, ”said a trade unionist.

The situation will in any case be tense between now and Thursday in several sectors. Even if there are requisitions, the garbage collection strike continues to be stronger in Paris while several unions are calling not to ensure the baccalaureate specialty tests.

The CGT also announced on Saturday that the country’s largest refinery, located in Normandy and operated by TotalEnergies, has begun to be shut down and others are expected to follow, whereas so far only shipments of fuel were blocked. In energy, mobilization is growing.

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