Demonstrations took place in several French cities today (March 17) as unions demanded worker pay rises in the face of soaring inflation and shrinking spending power.
The demonstrations were led by the Confédération générale du travail (CGT), France’s main workers union, and joined by a conglomerate of other unions such as the Union nationale des syndicats autonome (UNSA) and the SNES-FSU, a teachers’ union.
The CGT is asking France’s minimum wage to be put up to €2,000, along with salary and pension increases for both private and public sector workers and actions aimed at tackling the gender pay gap.
In Nice, the CGT began their protest in Garibaldi square at 10:30, where a handful of members addressed the several hundred people who came to listen to the speeches.
The CGT opened the floor to medical and teaching professionals who, by turns, denounced the staff shortages created in their sectors by redundancies.
“The government needs to hear our state of distress. The government needs to hear our wrath,” said Céline Lemaire, who works as a childcare assistant in a nursery in Nice.
The union accused Mr Macron’s government of stalling wage increases, reducing spending and impacting public buying power, making reference to tensions around energy prices since the eruption of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We have lost the equivalent of a thirteenth month of wages,” Hughes Jeffredo, 52, the general secretary of the CGT in Nice and one of those who spoke to the crowd, told The Connexion.
The ‘thirteenth month’ is a bonus delivered to workers in December in an effort to provide a salary boost for that month. It is often agreed through collective bargaining between employees, unions and industry leaders.
Mr Jeffredo also referred to the ten-year freeze on the ‘point d’indice’, a unit calculating civil-servant wage by taking into account various factors like hierarchy or experience, and France’s current 4% inflation rate, two combined factors that had impacted his spending power.
“I have lost €2,000 in about 13 years,” said Alain Tiderti, a retiree and a former history and geography teacher, who conceded that he himself benefited from a generous teacher’s pension.
Mr Tiderti said he was protesting to show support for the workers during a “widespread and generally difficult time.”
Mr Tiderti estimated that he had lost around 15 to 20% of his spending power under Mr Macron’s presidency.
‘We will not be tricked’
Minister of Public Transformation Amélie de Montchalin has announced that the point d’indice will be re-evaluated “before summer” in an interview with the French newspaper Le Parisien. This recalculation will affect 5.5 million civil servants.
Civil servant pension packages were also increased by 0.9% on January 1 after having plateaued for several years.
Both Ms de Montchalin’s announcement and the pension increase were denounced as “electoral manoeuvres” to attract voters, as the first round of 2022’s presidential election approaches.
“We are not dumb and we will not be tricked,” said Mr Jeffredo.
Mr Jeffredo said he believed most voters have yet not decided which candidate they will vote for and will continue considering until the election rounds take place.
“We cannot keep up with the unfiltered neoliberal economy,” he said.
The CGT will demonstrate again on Friday at 11:00 to protest against far-right movements.
Workers from heavy industries, transport, farming and public services have already been mobilised once before this year during another day of interprofessional strike action in January.