Labour Day pension demonstration makes historic 1 May for unions

A mobilisation of some 2.3 million people who took to the streets to protest against French pension reforms marked a historic Labour Day for French unions, according to a press release from CGT.

Labour Day, which also marked the 13th day of mobilisation against the pension reform, was qualified as historic by the organising unions.

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According to a press release from the majority union CGT, the mobilisation “reached a record level for the first May,” with 2.3 million demonstrators participating.

Such a large turnout and show of unity among unions has not been seen in France since the financial crisis of 2009 or when the far-right came in at the second round of presidential elections in 2002.

According to the Interior Ministry, they counted 782,000 demonstrators in France, compared to 116,500 in 2022.

“We can’t be robbed of two years of life, we can’t move on. We will get back the retirement at 60. Don’t give in, the fight goes on until it is withdrawn”, exclaimed left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon as the pension reform was recently promulgated.

Violent clashes between demonstrators and the police also marked the mobilisation.

In the afternoon, near the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris, a policeman received second-degree burns from a Molotov cocktail, and a building was burned down.

In the early evening, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced that 291 people were arrested on Monday, including 90 in Paris.

Darmanin quickly condemned these actions, denouncing the “extremely violent thugs who came with one objective: to kill cops and attack the property of others.”

“This violence must be condemned without reservation,” he added.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called the violent scenes “unacceptable”.

The march finally had an international and European flavour with the presence of Esther Lynch, the general secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation and Luc Triangle  , the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation)

“Thank you to Esther Lynch […] for having contributed alongside a large delegation of Germans, Ukrainians, Spaniards, Belgians, Luxembourgers and Italians to the success of this exceptional May Day!” tweeted Sophie Binet, the new head of the CGT.

Libération also reported the presence of Vasyl Andreyev, vice-president of the FPU, the Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine, the largest trade union confederation in the country.

“In our country, the legal retirement age is currently 62. So we hope you will not lose because this could have consequences in all European countries that will follow your example,” he told Libération.

What next? The inter-union should decide today, Tuesday, whether or not to accept the government’s invitation launched a few days ago to discuss the next steps.

But for Sophie Binet, there will be “no return to normal” without a withdrawal of the reform, she told France Bleu. For Laurent Berger (CFDT), this “intersyndicale” will go all the way.”

The next important deadline is 8 June, when the LIOT group (centrist MPs) will examine the bill to repeal the pensions text.

(Hugo Struna |

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