Massive demonstration in Paris against inflation and the climate crisis | Labor rights news
Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Paris, adding to growing defiance and anger over inflation, three weeks after the start of a strike at refineries that caused fuel shortages across France.
The demonstration against the rising cost of living on Sunday was called by the left-wing political opposition and led by the leader of the La France insoumise party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
It was a show of anger against the bite of rising prices and to mount pressure on President Emmanuel Macron’s government.
Organizers called it a “march against high prices and climate inaction”.
As well as calling for massive investment against the climate crisis, they also demanded emergency measures against rising prices, including freezing the costs of energy, essential goods and rents, and greater taxation of windfall profits by companies.
Some protesters wore fluorescent yellow vests, a symbol of the often violent anti-government protests in 2018 that rocked Macron’s centrist pro-business government.
Macron’s opponents hope to build on the momentum created by the refineries tussle that began in late September.
Transportation strikes called on Tuesday threaten to tie in with wage strikes that have already hobbled refineries and fuel depots, causing chronic gasoline shortages that are fraying the nerves of millions of workers and other motorists dependent on their fuels. vehicles, with giant lines forming at gas stations.
“We’re going to have a week like you don’t see very often,” Melenchon said from atop a truck amidst the crowd. “Everything is linked. We are starting it with this march, which is a huge success.
Organizers said 140,000 people attended Sunday’s rally. Police had earlier predicted that around 30,000 people would attend.
“Bored and Tired”
Alongside Melenchon, French author Annie Ernaux, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature this year, protested. Melenchon said Macron’s leadership was plunging France into “chaos”.
The Macron government is on the defensive in parliament, where it lost its majority in the June legislative elections. This makes it much more difficult for his centrist alliance to implement its national program against hardened opponents, and the parliamentary discussion of the government’s budget plan for next year is proving particularly difficult.
Several French unions, but not all, announced Tuesday a national day of strike which should affect road transport, trains and the public sector.
The strikes and protests are being closely watched by the government, which aims to push through a highly controversial change to the pension system in the coming months.
Macron, who won re-election in April, has pledged to raise the retirement age to 62, with the reform due before the end of winter.
“I’m really worried,” said a ruling party lawmaker on condition of anonymity. “We have to find a way between the need for reform and the fact that people are angry and tired.”
Four of the seven French refineries – all belonging to the Parisian energy group TotalEnergies – remained blocked on Sunday.
The French company announced on Friday that it had reached a wage agreement with the two largest unions representing the staff of its refineries, giving hope of an end to the impasse. But the hard-line CGT union refused to accept it, its members continuing to maintain strike pickets.
Budget Minister Gabriel Attal on Sunday denounced the continuation of the strike as “unacceptable”, while business lobby Medef said “150 people” were taking “the country hostage”.
“Of course there is a right to strike, but at some point the country has to be able to function,” Attal told French media.
Staff at two other refineries owned by US group Esso-ExxonMobil returned to work late last week, but operations there will need at least two weeks to return to normal, the company said.
About a third of gas stations across the country have supply problems, meaning drivers often wait hours to fill up.
Many businesses have cut travel and deliveries, while even emergency service vehicles are facing shortages.
Huge profits made by energy groups from record fuel prices have generated some sympathy for employees who are demanding higher wages. But a poll by the BVA polling group released on Friday suggested that only 37% of people supported the shutdowns.
Sunday’s protest march through Paris was called by Melenchon’s party and is backed by its coalition allies – the Greens, Socialists and Communists.