Garbage Piles up in Paris as Strikes Resist Macron’s Pension Reforms

The City of Light loses its luster as tons of rubbish pile up on the sidewalks of Paris as sanitation workers strike for the ninth day on Tuesday. The creeping filth is the most visible sign of widespread anger over a bill to raise the French retirement age by two years.

The stench of rotting food was starting to seep from some of the trash bags and overflowing trash bins. The strike spared neither the Left Bank Palace that houses the Senate nor, across town, steps away from the Elysee Palace, where waste from the presidential residence is apparently stored.

More than 5,600 tons of rubbish had accumulated by Monday, prompting complaints from some mayors. Some of the piles were removed early Tuesday morning with the help of a private company, BFMTV reported.

TOPSHOT – A pedestrian walks past containers of household waste on a Paris street, March 12, 2023, which has accumulated since tax collectors went on strike against the French government’s proposed pension reform on March 6, 2023. (Photo by Stefano Relandini/AFP) ( (Photo by Stefano Relandini/AFP via Getty Images)

Other French cities also suffer from garbage problems, but the chaos in Paris, the frontier of France, is quickly becoming a symbol of the strikers’ discontent.

“It looked a lot because it was hard to navigate” some of the streets, said 24-year-old British visitor Nadia Turkay after touring the French capital. She added that it was “annoying, to be honest” because in the “pretty streets…you see all the trash and everything. The smell.”

However, Turkay sympathized with the striking workers and accepted her unease as “with good reason”.

Even the strikers themselves, who include the garbage collectors, street cleaners and underground sanitation workers, worry about what Paris will become of in their absence.

“It makes me sick,” said Gursel Dornaz, who has been on the sit-in line for nine days. “There are boxes everywhere, things are everywhere. People can’t get over the past. We are very aware.”

But he added that President Emmanuel Macron should just withdraw his plan to increase the retirement age in France “and Paris will be clean in three days”.

Strikes have sporadically disrupted other sectors, including transport, energy and ports, but Macron remains fearful as his government presses ahead with an attempt to pass an unpopular pension reform bill through parliament. The bill would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 for most people and from 57 to 59 for most people in the sanitation sector.

Sanitation workers say another two years is too long for the basic but neglected services they provide to everyone.

“What makes France transform are the invisible jobs. Unfortunately we are among the invisible people,” said Djamel Auchin, who has been mopping the streets of an elegant Paris neighbourhood. He suggested politicians go on a “discovery day” to see what it takes to keep the city clean. .

“They won’t last a day,” Ocean said.

Health is a primary concern in the sanitation sector, officially recognized with early retirement currently at 57, although many people are working longer to increase their pension. With the exception of sanitation workers, there appear to be no long-term studies to confirm widespread claims about shortened life expectancy among sanitation workers.

However, it was the health reasons behind Ali Shalighi’s decision to quit his job as a garbage collector for a desk position in logistics. Chalegui, 41, says he still suffers from after-effects 10 years later, like tendonitis, shoulder and ankle pain.

“Mr Macron wants us to die on the job,” said Frederic Obisi, a sanitation worker and member of the executive committee of the sanitation department of the left-wing CGT union, at the forefront of the movement against the pension plan.

The stakes will be high on Wednesday for both the government and striking workers. Unions hold their eighth nationwide protest marches since January, and their third in nine days; The action is timed to coincide with a closed meeting of seven senators and seven House representatives who will try to reach consensus on the text of the bill. Success would bring the legislation back to both chambers for a vote on Thursday.

But nothing is certain, and the ticking of the clock seems to have fueled the determination of the attackers guarding the picket lines.

Dornaz, 55, is among those in the picket line at a crematorium south of Paris, one of three serving the capital – all of whom have been banned since March 6. He has only come home twice to see his wife and three children. He said: “It’s cold, it’s raining, there’s a wind.”

Even if the bill becomes law, “we have other options,” Dornaz said. “not finished yet.”

“Nothing is written in stone,” added Obis, the union official. He cited an unpopular 2006 law to promote youth employment that then-Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin passed despite massive student protests that led to a political crisis. Months later, it was abandoned in a parliamentary vote.

If the pension reform is voted on, Obis said, “things will happen.” “That’s sure and sure.”

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