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The backstory: In January, France's government announced that the general pension age would be raised from 62 to 64. Since then, there have been mass protests against this reform involving pretty much the entire nation. On January 19, a million people across the country took to the streets to protest the proposal. Even with the strikes being called again and again, President Emmanuel Macron and his government are still pushing for reform.
More recently: At this point, France's garbage collector union is refusing to pick up the trash. The pension age would be lifted for garbage collectors from 57 to 59. But, people in this job are generally not paid very well and have a high early mortality rate, according to Belgian stats. Paris's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has already offered her "total, complete solidarity" with the strikers and won't requisition them. Transport, energy and ports have also been crippled by labor action because of the proposed pension reform.
The development: Over 7,000 tons of trash are already lining Paris's streets. The strike has affected both the Left Bank palace, which houses the Senate, and the Elysee Palace street, where waste from the presidential residence goes. It's reported that half of the city's districts, which council worker collectors cover, are dealing with trash issues. But, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced on Tuesday that he'd force garbage collectors back to work. And Macron invoked a special constitutional power to get the controversial pension bill through parliament without a full vote on Thursday.
“What makes France turn are the invisible jobs. ... We are unfortunately among the invisible people,” said Jamel Ouchen, who sweeps streets in one of Paris’s neighborhoods, to AP.
“It will be those who work the hardest who will get a bad deal. It’s always like that,” said Magali Brutel, a 41-year-old nurse. “Very rich people could pay more in taxes — that’s a good solution to pay for an aging population. Why are we effectively taxing the oldest and the poorest?”
Darmanin’s plan to force collectors back to work “once again demonstrates that this government is incapable of dialogue and of assuming its responsibilities in the face of an unfair reform,” said Paris Deputy Mayor Colombe Brossel.
“There will actually be a proper vote and therefore the parliamentary democracy will have the last say,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said.