On Thursday, September 29, working class sections in France observed a national day of action demanding an increase in wages and purchasing power. The call for the mobilization was given by trade unions including the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), FSU, and Solidaires, and youth and student groups like the Young Communist Movement of France (MJCF), Union of Communist Students (UEC), and others. Workers and young people held marches in around 200 locations across France, including in Paris, Marseilles, Nantes, Le Havre, Lille, and Strasbourg.
Workers are demanding that the Emmanuel Macron-led government increase wages and take steps to prop up purchasing power in order to combat the soaring inflation and cost of living crisis. They also opposed the government’s proposal for pension reform, which intends to increase the retirement age to 65. Political parties, including the French Communist Party (PCF), La France Insoumise (LFI), Socialist Party, and the Greens, expressed support and solidarity with the workers.
French workers have been organizing major mobilizations across the country for the past four years protesting the austerity-driven neo-liberal policies of Macron’s government. The COVID-19 crisis worsened the living conditions of common people. Now, a cost of living crisis marked by soaring inflation has pushed workers to the brink. Food and fuel prices are skyrocketing across Europe due to the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war and profiteering by private energy producers and distributors. In order to tackle such a crisis, working class sections and progressive political parties across Europe have been demanding a cap on energy and food prices, reduction in the VAT on fuel, increase in wages and pensions, and an extra tax on the excess profit made by private energy companies. Working class sections in France have made similar demands. Additionally, unions like CGT are agitated over Macron’s proposal for a gradual increase in the retirement age from 62 to 65 by 2031. Macron’s earlier attempt to reform pensions during his first tenure was met with massive protests and he was forced to put the reforms on hold.
Related to the mobilization on Thursday, the CGT put forth a 10-point proposal to increase the purchasing power of workers to help them combat the cost of living crisis. It includes: (1) increase in wages and Smic (legal minimum hourly wage); (2) wage equality between men and women; (3) recognition of diplomas as qualification for jobs and wage hikes; (4) temporary income equal to Smic to all workers deprived of their jobs; (5) minimum increase of pensions to 2,000 euros (USD 1,955); (6) an autonomy allowance for jobless students and youths and an increase in wages for apprentices; (7) capping of rents; (8) lowering the VAT rate to 5.5% on basic necessities; (9) lowering of fuel prices; and (10) ending of tax exemptions offered to big companies.
The MJCF said that the “government dries up social security and state revenue through tax breaks and tax cuts, and threatens to destroy our social rights with the retirement age [proposal]. This policy is only about preserving capitalist profits.”
“Yet raising wages, removing gifts to employers would be more revenue for social security and public services, and we would have no problem financing retirement at 60.” it added.