The day of strikes and demonstrations of January 19 is becoming clearer. Rallies will be held across France to protest against the adoption of the pension reform bill. The unions hope for millions of people mobilized.
“There must be as many people as possible”, here is the slogan launched by the unions to oppose the pension reform; in this case it was Laurent Berger, secretary general of the CFDT, who beat the recall on January 16 on France info. “It must be said clearly that the postponement of the legal retirement age to 64 years is opposed by the world of workers,” he insisted.
The Prime Minister indeed presented the pension reform project on January 10, the same evening the unions announced the holding of a first demonstration against the reform on Thursday January 19, 2023. This day of strikes and demonstrations must be ” the start of a powerful mobilization on long-term pensions”, calls in its press release the inter-union which brings together eight organizations (CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, Unsa, Solidaires, FSU).
Individually, the general secretaries and presidents of the unions have again insisted on the importance of leading the fight so that the reform which they consider unfair “does not enter into force”. It should be noted that it is very rare for all the trade unions to come together on the common organization of a national demonstration: the CFDT, considered to be the union most inclined to negotiate reforms with the government, has chosen to making the decline of the starting age a red line, to the chagrin of the executive.
Where will the demonstrations take place?
The inter-union which announced a mobilization which would take place “in the long term” has not yet communicated on the places of mobilization. Several groupings will take place throughout France, and not just in Paris. On the site of the CGT will be listed the various places of regroupings as and when.
- Paris: Gathering at 12.15 p.m. for the press conference at the corner of Boulevard du Temple and Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud / Departure of the demonstration at 2 p.m. from Place de la République for Place de la Nation
- Toulouse: Gathering at 10 a.m. at the War Memorial
- Marseille: Gathering at 10.30 a.m. at the Reformed
- Nice: Gathering at 10 a.m. Place Masséna
- Lyon: Gathering at 11 a.m. Manufacture des Tabacs
- Rennes: Gathering at 11 a.m. at the Charles-de-Gaulle esplanade
- Bordeaux: Gathering at 12 p.m. Place de la République in Bordeaux
- Avignon: Gathering at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Cité administrative
- Metz: Gathering at 2 p.m. Place de la gare
- La Rochelle: Gathering at 2:30 p.m. on the forecourt of the station
Why a demonstration against the pension reform on January 19?
The protest movement that began several weeks ago is quickly refocusing on the fight against pension reform and for good reason: the unions want to be the initiators of the revolt and not leave the opportunity for political parties to take on this role. “I believe that the left-wing parties would be inspired to let us manage the social mobilization. It is up to the trade unions to give the ‘the’ and the kick-off of the mobilization”, warned the general secretary of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, January 6 in The Parisian. A thinly veiled message to the attention of La France insoumise (LFI) which is organizing its “march for pensions” on January 21.
It is also because the intersyndicale is aware of the executive’s desire to have its reform adopted in the space of a few months for entry into force scheduled for the summer of 2023 that the opposition is getting organized in high speed. “The objective is to start [les mobilisations] as quickly as possible, because we know that the government will want to go very quickly by skipping the necessary debate in Parliament, “said Céline Verzeletti, confederal secretary of the CGT at the Telegram.
Who is called to demonstrate on January 19?
With a call for strikes and demonstrations common to the eight main unions and the five youth organizations, it is indeed all workers, employees, employees or self-employed, who are invited to take to the streets to oppose the reform of the retreats. All sectors are also concerned and those affected by the abolition of special regimes all the more so. The unions also hope to see as many workers from the public as from the private sector join the processions of demonstrators.
In addition to employees and unions, politicians are also invited to take part in the mobilization by union representatives such as Laurent Berger, boss of the CFDT who called on the political parties “to mobilize on January 19” without however recovering the mobilizations at their account. It is indeed the voices of the working people, the first to be affected by the pension reform, which must be heard.
And many politicians have already responded, especially in the ranks of Nupes. LFI, which therefore plans another demonstration in the process, “massively” supports the movement, according to several deputies, just like the PS which spoke through the voice of its spokesperson Pierre Toy. On the side of the communists and environmentalists, we promise to be in the processions of January 19: “All mobilized in the street” tweeted the boss of the communists Fabien Roussel while the national secretary of EELV Marine Tondelier made it known that “[ses] sneakers are ready”.
The police unions have also made it known through AFP that they will also demonstrate on January 19. The majority union bloc led by Alliance-CFE-CGC and Unsa police has indeed communicated on their refusal to work two additional annuities. Due to the dangers of the profession, police officers could retire between 52 and 57 years old, with the reform the retirement age would now be between 54 and 59 years old.
How many demonstrators expected on January 19?
To have impact it will be necessary to be very numerous according to the president of the union CFTC. Cyril Chabanier has indeed estimated that if the million demonstrators is not reached, “it will be complicated” reported Le Figaro. For his part questioned this Friday, January 13 on BFM TV, the secretary general of the CGT, Philippe Martinez declared “to hope for several million strikers and demonstrators”. This is the “objective” of the unions, he chanted.
This Wednesday, January 11, according to a Elabe survey for BFM TV, 60% of French people say they support the mobilization against the pension reform and 46% add that they are ready to mobilize themselves in the coming weeks. For the time being, the unions are not advancing any quantified objectives except to reach and exceed the number of demonstrators counted in the streets to fight against the pension reform presented in 2019, i.e. 806,000 people.
However, at the end of the Council of Ministers this Wednesday, January 11, Olivier Véran, government spokesperson, announced, confident, that the executive “does not project itself into the idea of a massive mobilization”. “We have come out of the consultation phase and we are entering the phase of explanation, information, discussion with the French to explain, re-explain why it is fundamental that we carry out this pension reform”, a he developed. Olivier Véran therefore asked the French to “find out to see if you are impacted and in what direction”.
Despite the convergence of struggles thanks to this inter-union unity forced by events – as was the case in 2010 for the same reasons – Laurent Berger is not certain that very many French people are taking to the streets. In remarks reported by Le Monde, the general secretary of the CFDT let slip one of his collaborators that a “half-day strike without being paid, when the end of the month is coming earlier and earlier, this is not easy…”.
The daily also revealed, according to a source close to Elisabeth Borne, that she is both “focused and worried”, not wanting to relive the adventures of last Christmas with the strike by SNCF controllers which had surprised the government. In reality, no one can gauge the magnitude of the movement that is preparing: a few tens of thousands of people? A million protesters? Any further ?
Other demonstrations to come against the pension reform?
The mobilization day of January 19, 2023 should not be the only one. The unions are calling for them to stay the course and take to the streets until the government backs down on the pension reform or lends itself to real negotiations and “it will take a lot of mobilization to make them back down, we will not be able to be satisfied with a half-success”, recognizes Cyril Chabanier, president of the CFTC at the microphone of France news. Other mobilizations at the initiative of the unions could therefore follow in the coming months, particularly in February and March when the reform will be debated in Parliament.
And when the unions do not call for mobilization, others can take over like LFI. On January 6, even before knowing the date of the day of union mobilization, Jean-Luc Mélenchon had announced the holding of the “march for pensions” on January 21 to “open the phase of direct and frontal struggle on the central theme of the quinquennium”. The whole left should follow suit and on the other side of the political spectrum, the far right is also fiercely opposed to pension reform. But the National Rally is also opposed to the trade unions, who had called to vote against Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election, and will therefore not follow their call to demonstrate.
Encouraged by these calls for mobilization, citizens could also organize demonstrations. Police intelligence also fears “a new large-scale citizen mobilization” with the accumulation of hot spots in recent months: inflation, the energy crisis and now the unwelcome pension reform. In a note consulted by our colleagues from BFM TV and of France Interthe police say they fear “long strikes in several key sectors of the economy” and demonstrations “outside any union framework” as well as “necessarily disruptive and unpredictable modes of action”.