The unions launched the battle with a massive movement, followed by hundreds of thousands of protesters. For his part, Emmanuel Macron displayed his “determination”.
Advantage street. From Barcelona, where he was taking part in a Franco-Spanish summit, Emmanuel Macron had to face the facts: the unions won the bet of mobilizing against the pension reform. With more than 2 million demonstrators claimed by the CGT and more than 1 million identified by the police at the end of the day, the showdown with the executive is on solid ground for the unions. The Minister of Labour, Olivier Dussopt, himself recognized on RTL a “significant mobilization” ensuring that he “must listen to the messages in the processions”. As Jean-Luc Mélenchon summed up in Marseille before the start of the Paris demonstration: “The government lost its first battle“. More are to come.
To the show of force of the unions, the President of the Republic opposed the legitimacy he has to lead the reform and his determination to bring it to an end. “Things must be said when democratic choices are made“, explained Emmanuel Macron, defending a reform”democratically presented, validated” and “above all fair and responsible“. With a nuance, however, that opponents of pension reform constantly remind us: if Emmanuel Macron was re-elected for a second term, it was more to block Marine Le Pen than to support his program. “Yes, it also existed“, recognized the Head of State, but”it is the very principle of a second round and it is as old as democracy (…) Nor can we (act) as if there had been no elections a few months ago , that’s just what I’m saying, very calmly“.
Unions emerge stronger
Nevertheless, at the end of the first day of demonstration against the pension reform, and despite the clashes which marred the procession, the unions emerged strengthened and the left with them. Like their trade union colleagues, the leaders of LFI, the Greens, the PS and the PC erased their divisions for a day, with the hope of maintaining the unity of the left throughout the conflict. Place de la République, those responsible for Nupes fall into each other’s arms. The controversies and internal affairs of the coalition are put aside.
“We have to get the million. When we see the demonstrations in the big cities this morning, these are participation figures that we have not seen for ten or fifteen years. In Valenciennes, there were people I had never met before in demonstrations“, says the communist Fabien Roussel alongside the ecologist Marine Tondelier and the socialist Olivier Faure. “It is a mobilization that is already historic. It’s comparable to what we experienced in 1995. This tremendous success is linked to union unity», Says for her part the Insoumise Mathilde Panot.
Pension reform is like rounding Cape Horn. Either the boat breaks or it passes. We left for fifty days of heavy weather
A government heavyweight
However, the Nupes delegation did not obtain a family photo with the union officials, who did not want it. It is however not for lack of having tried: on several occasions, the elected representatives of the left have tried to approach the head of the procession to meet them. They were immediately asked to step aside to let the procession pass. Not important, they say. “It’s because there are too many people that we have to walk on the sidewalk. It feels like the Fête de l’Huma!», quips Fabien Roussel. Marine Tondelier, the national secretary of EELV, and some environmentalists finally managed to meet Philippe Martinez, the general secretary of the CGT.
Within the Nupes, however, instructions have been given to highlight the unions and above all not to give the impression of wanting to pull the cover. “Unions build unity, and politicians reinforce it“Summarizes the LFI deputy, Alexis Corbière. “I tell them: “Give me the date of the next mobilization, it will be mine”“, he assures. The Insoumis nevertheless call for a new demonstration on Saturday… without the approval of the union forces. The latter were to decide Thursday evening on the date of a new day of demonstration. With the aim of amplifying mobilization to increase pressure on the government. “Pension reform is like rounding Cape Horn. Either the boat breaks or it passes. We left for fifty days of heavy weathersums up a government heavyweight. That is the time available to Parliament to adopt the text after its presentation to the Council of Ministers on 23 January. A sequence which, according to Emmanuel Macron, “allow all the political forces in the Assembly and the Senate to express themselves, to enrich the project“. And therefore to add some modifications, if the pressure from the street were to increase in the wake of the demonstrations on Thursday.
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