The pension strikes are letting trash build up in Paris streets, making the city of light’s appeal dim quite a bit.
Recently, the French parliament put forward an unpopular pension bill, raising the age of retirement two years. That means that workers will have to work two years longer to qualify for essential retirement benefits. For most people, the new age is 64. For sanitation workers, it’s moved from 57 to 59 years.
The reason sanitation workers have a five-year jump on retirement is that it’s a brutal job. It’s widely acknowledged that most jobs in the sector actively shorten a lifespan. So the two year extension feels like a slap to the face.
“Monsieur Macron wants us to die on the job,” said Frederic Aubisse, a sewer worker and member of the executive committee of the sanitation section of the leftist CGT union, at the forefront of the mobilization against the pension plan.
In response, pension strikes have hit every city in France, and particularly Paris. In just nine days, over 7000 tons of garbage are estimated to have been piled up on the city’s sidewalks and streets.
“It’s a bit too much because it was even hard to navigate” some streets, said 24-year-old British visitor Nadiia Turkay after touring the French capital. She added that it was “upsetting, to be honest,” because on “beautiful streets … you see all the rubbish and everything. The smell.”
“What makes France turn are the invisible jobs. … We are unfortunately among the invisible people,” said Jamel Ouchen, who sweeps streets in a chic Paris neighborhood. He suggested politicians go on a “discovery day” to learn first-hand what it takes to keep the city clean.
“They won’t last a single day,” Ouchen said.
Wednesday was the eighth nationwide protest march for dozens of collaborating unions, coinciding with a closed-door meeting of French senators to decide on the text of the bill.
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