29, October 2019
Momentum is building in France for what appears to be the largest general strike since 1995. Starting December 5th, public transport workers, truck drivers, students and others have already committed to an unlimited strike until President Emmanuel Macron’s sharply unpopular pension rollback is totally withdrawn.
The changes would install a radical, one-size-fits-all universal system and raise the retirement age to 64. Many call it “unjust” and “out of touch”, while the government claims it is necessary to reduce the national debt, which has ballooned after banker bailouts and a decade of cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
Wildcat train strikes are already reducing services nationwide, hundreds of hospitals have had staff on strike for months, and medical professionals protested again in Paris.
After pensioners, health care has been the area of society the most negatively impacted by budget cuts in France. At the turn of the century, France’s health care system was ranked number one in the world, but the quality of care for the average person has plummeted.
Macron increased perceptions that he is a so-called “liberal strongman” in a recent, rare interview. He said he wouldn’t show any type of “weakness or complacency” in forcing through his pension legislation no matter how many families or workers were affected by the strike, or if it it increases his already low approval ratings.
The Macron era has witnessed near-constant social unrest caused by unpopular right wing reforms, with the long-running Yellow Vest movement being the most prominent example of the widespread discontent.