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Events in Paris | Pension reform leaves a nasty smell in the air



(Paris) A putrid odor has gradually taken hold in recent days in Paris. Light, but very real.

Garbage bags have been piling up on sidewalks since March 7; you have to learn to slalom there. In front of the buildings, waste in hand, the inhabitants try to find a small place for their packaging, their leftover food, everything that they can no longer store at home.

“I’m breaking up all the boxes we’ve accumulated, but I know I can’t put them all on the street, there’s no room! », laments Amélie, shopkeeper at 12e arrondissement.

Parisians are learning to appreciate the essential work of garbage collectors. Like many others, the 2,500 men and women who empty their bins have gone on strike. And some 10,000 tons of waste await them on the sidewalk.


A protester pushes a trash can into a pile of burnt waste in Paris.

For them, as for 68% of French people (according to the latest survey), there is no question of letting the pension reform wanted by Emmanuel Macron and his government pass. “Embel to elbow with all the workers in struggle, all professional sectors, we will bring to their knees those who want to make us die at work”, assures the majority union of the profession (CGT FTDNEEA).

“The fact that the garbage collectors go on strike makes it possible to affect all Parisians, including those who rarely see the effects of the mobilization in the heart of the capital, believes Léo, a young Parisian. It is a good thing that there is a manifestation of discontent, which could not have taken place during the presidential campaign. It shows that people are worried about this reform. »

10,000 tonnes of open waste

Flagship measure of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign program, the pension reform has crystallized all the tensions in France in recent weeks. If this text has 20 articles providing for a review of the financing of pensions, it is article 7 which has boosted the indignation of workers, this one postponing by two years – from 62 to 64 years – the authorized departure for retirement and extending the contribution period. Difficult and precarious professions are the first losers announced from this reform.

The garbage collectors’ strike, more than any other, has highlighted the deep divisions that exist between the French. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and her leftist team support the fight against the reform. ” [Les éboueurs] were there in March 2020 when you were locked up! They are there today to allow the food markets to continue to be held! So thank you to the agents, thank you to the mobilization, congratulations for what they do for them and for the others, “said Colombe Brossel, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of the cleanliness of public space, sorting , waste reduction, recycling and reuse at the last Paris Council.

On one of the best-known markets in Paris, that of Aligre (12e district), a market gardener acknowledges: “We have big dumpsters for our waste, that’s not a problem. But it’s true that around the market, it’s hell. Yesterday, they came to pick up a bit, it left streaks…”

Bins as barricades

After having nevertheless suffered a refusal from Anne Hidalgo – “the situation […] is entirely attributable to the government’s desire to legislate to raise the retirement age” – the prefect of Paris decided to requisition certain agents to clean the sidewalks. A few dump trucks, unable to resolve the extent of the situation on their own, roam the streets.

But the waste treatment plants are still blocked and inaccessible.

On Friday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used her ultimate weapon: Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the government to pass a bill without having it voted on by the National Assembly, so as not to risk its rejection.


Demonstrators are gathered on the Place de la Concorde, on the bank opposite the Bourbon Palace.

It was enough to stir up the anger of the French opposed to this reform. On the Place de la Concorde, opposite the headquarters of the National Assembly, an improvised demonstration took place in the wake of the speech on March 17. Burning garbage cans served as a barricade: Paris had a little air of revolution.

Elsewhere in France, gatherings are also increasing.

Because all is not lost.

Deputies can still vote a motion of censure against the government. If 287 of the 577 deputies unite, the government will have to resign. The crucial vote will take place on Monday.

In the meantime, the Paris prefecture has banned all gatherings on Place de la Concorde and on Avenue des Champs-Élysées to avoid clashes during the weekend.

Saturday March 18, the Parisian demonstrators therefore had to find another rallying point. This is Place d’Italie (13e borough) at 6 p.m. that the meeting was given. The opportunity to remobilize the population before a week which promises to be made up of daily gatherings.

The inter-union calls for a massive demonstration on Thursday, March 23. A perspective that does not delight Bastien, a fruit and vegetable seller near the Place de la Bastille (4e arrondissement). “We cannot afford to close to strike. Each time there is a demonstration, we lose half of our turnover, ”he confides.

The Paris garbage collectors’ strike notice is also still relevant. In waste treatment plants, the strategy has changed. No more blockage, but filtering dams. Only 80 dump trucks will enter each day, compared to 400 in normal times.

A delicious week is therefore still announced for the rats of the French capital. They will revel in bags which, demonstrators now know, easily go up in smoke.

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