Pension protests: on the streets of Nice

Shopkeepers, train customers and protestors in Nice have all told Connexion what they think of today’s pension reform strikes – both good and bad.

Published Last updated

The strikes left the main train station empty apart from a few bewildered tourists, but the city centre square, Place Masséna, was packed with strikers, who told us why they joined the protests today.

Meanwhile some businesses welcomed the effects, and some did not.

When Connexion visited first thing this morning no trains are running at Nice Ville station until 15:37.

SNCF staff refused to answer questions but were on hand to assist users and advise people to travel tomorrow instead...

A tourist, Valery Davidova, 25, from Israel, said she had arrived yesterday in Nice and had been planning to go to Cannes by train this morning.

She said: “I did not know about the strike, yesterday everything was fine but today I am stuck. I don’t know what to do and how to go to Cannes.”

Views were mixed among local businesses.

A Décathlon sports equipment shop manager, Aurélien, said: “Strikes affect the business fairly positively, because there are no trams or public transport which is good news because it makes people walk by the shop more.

“It’s a good thing for us as people are coming to look for Christmas presents; however it is worse for employees whose lives centre around their business, for example people whose business is also their home or who have shops in remote places. It also depends on what you sell; a lot of people take part in sports so we expect more customers here for example.

“It’s good for us as well because a lot of people are going to have the day off of work today so they will want to use the spare time to come to buy Christmas presents.”

Pauline, assistant manager at an Etam lingerie shop said: “Striking is a good thing as it is important to defend each other and to express your opinions.

“As to whether business is affected or not, it depends. We are a chain so we have shops all over the country so we will be less affected than some, but we are expecting to see fewer customers today.

“This is because, if you wanted to do some shopping you would be more likely to go to a shopping centre on a day like this so they will have more business than we will.”

A shopkeeper at independent bags and accessories shop Sublime, Mrs Dion, said: “There is no work and no transport so people stay home and as a result don’t come out and pass by the shop.

“I am thinking of shutting early as I have had no customers yet today. It’s lethal for businesses.

“Not only this but because there is no public transport people who live further outside of the city centre, for example the people in the mountains and small villages, are really stuck as they can’t get out to buy anything that they need.”

Protestors spoke out strongly against the pension reforms.

Primary school teacher Frédérique, 45, from Nice said: “Pension reform is disadvantageous to us, as it is to all private and public sector employees.

“As a teacher having had a full career, the pension would be reduced by €900 per month so we are really a laughing stock.

“We already have low salaries but we had the prospect of a decent retirement but now we are paying on both sides.”

Retired couple, Alain and Marie, 63 and 66, from Nice said they came to show “solidarity”.

Alain, a retired SNCF cheminot, said: “It has been a long time since there had been such a rally, but as Macron is going too far, we are forced to demonstrate.

“Yes there should be a pension reform, but Macron was initially elected to do what Hollande did not do, that is to increase spending power and reduce unemployment.

“But all he does is to change everyone's benefits.

“Many professions have advantages that others do not have but these are agreements that were made years ago and I do not see why we have to remove these advantages.”

Marie said: “We always attack the same people, middle classes who pay for everyone when we should ask the richest to give more.”

The general secretary of the Force Ouvrière metallurgy union in Alpes-Maritimes, Philippe Ciccone, 41, said: “People are totally against this future reform, as we can see today.

“Now we are going to do everything we can to make the government back down, because if this reform passes, we will lose our spending power. We will lose a lot.

“The government wants to lower the pensions of the French with a system that pulls us down.

“Special schemes represent only 3% of salaries. They want us to believe that [with new reforms] there will be a retirement pension at a minimum of €1000 for artisans, shopkeepers and farmers for example. However the problem is that we'll end up with everyone just getting €1000 and we're totally against that. We just want things to be fair.”

Stay informed:
Sign up to our free weekly e-newsletter
Subscribe to access all our online articles and receive our printed monthly newspaper The Connexion at your home. News analysis, features and practical help for English-speakers in France