May Day Demonstration: A “Historic” but Truly Decisive Protest Against the Pension Reform?

General News
What to expect from the protests against pension reform

OPPOSITION: The unions have called for making May 1st “an exceptional and popular day of protest”, while the protest against the pension reform does not weaken

  • The unions have called for making May 1st “a day of exceptional and popular protest” against the pension reform.
  • After the validation of the text by the Constitutional Council in mid-April, union officials hope to maintain pressure on the executive to demand the withdrawal of the bill.
  • But the political impact remains uncertain. The rest of the challenge will probably depend more on the decision of the Constitutional Council on the validation or not of the Shared Initiative Referendum (RIP), two days later.

It is a day eagerly awaited by opponents of pension reform. The unions have called for making May 1st, this Monday, “a day of exceptional and popular mobilization”. After the validation of the government text by the Constitutional Council, in mid-April, union officials had targeted this holiday Monday, International Workers’ Day. The objective: to relaunch the movement and maintain pressure on the executive to request the withdrawal of the text. But will the demonstrations be decisive in this politico-social battle?

A May 1st already “historic” for information

“The protest of May 1st will be unprecedented and exceptional”, has already announced Sophie Binet, the new boss of the CGT, Thursday morning on RTL. Two weeks after the promulgation of the bill by Emmanuel Macron, the sporadic demonstrations against the displacements of ministers and other casseroles show that the anger remains important in the country. A new Ifop poll, published on Friday, confirms that the level of support or sympathy for the movement remains as high as at the beginning of April (60%), and registers an increase of 9 points compared to January.

“We feel that the protest remains well anchored in the country, and we can imagine that this May 1st will be a success for the unions”, assures Stéphane Sirot, a historian specializing in trade unionism and social movements. Last year, the Workers’ Day had gathered only 210,000 demonstrators, according to the CGT, and 116,500, according to the Interior, in the whole country. “The 1st of May are symbolic day, but they have not gathered massively in recent years, except when they are part of a social movement like today. The inter-union will be united again for this day of May 1, it is very rare, and this is what has been its strength in recent months, ”he adds.

According to an information note revealed by Europe 1, between 80,000 and 100,000 people are expected in Paris alone. “It is already appropriate to qualify this 1st of May as historic with regard to mobilization”, indicates the services. “It’s going to be huge,” Jean-Luc Mélenchon enthused this week on his YouTube channel, while all the left-wing parties called for pounding the pavement. “Do whatever it takes to make it huge! The struggle continues and the president will have to withdraw his law, and probably the government that goes with it, ”also launched the rebellious leader.

May 3 in everyone’s mind

But as important as it is, will Monday’s mobilization really have a political impact? Despite twelve days of strikes and historic demonstrations, Emmanuel Macron did not flinch. And Elisabeth Borne did not even mention pension reform or social protest when drawing up her “hundred days” roadmap, last Wednesday. “The challenge is important, but it’s a matter of a few days, mocks a Renaissance executive. Everything will depend on what the Constitutional Council says.

In the executive as in the opposition, all have their eyes riveted on May 3. On that day, the Elders will announce their decision whether or not to validate the second Shared Initiative Referendum (RIP). “It can create a new context,” assures Stéphane Sirot. “A validation of the RIP would revitalize the dispute and anchor this question of pensions over several months; the unions would undoubtedly maintain their unitary approach to collect signatures”. In case of invalidation of the RIP, the executive hopes on the contrary to turn the page definitively.

As if to better step over this final stage, the Prime Minister has already invited the unions to her table to renew the dialogue in the middle of next week. “The union strategy was to stick to the institutional calendar, so quite logically, if this ends in the event of failure of the RIP, we can imagine that there are no more major days of action and that different sensitivities are expressed on the return to dialogue”, adds the specialist. The CFDT has already indicated that it would be ready to discuss the next texts of law, on the question of work in particular. Enough to turn to the rest of the quinquennium? Erwan Balanant, MoDem MP for Finistère, remains cautious. “Behind this anger of the French on the 64 years, we feel a lot of concerns. Not everything will be purged, believing that would be a mistake. We will have to continue to make contact, appease and work”.

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