Thursday, January 16, strike in public transport against pension reform was in its 43e day. In terms of duration, this dispute has already broken records since May 1968. The social crisis is not over and it will have political and electoral extensions until the presidential election, but the conflict is fraying day after day. At SNCF, at the forefront in the sling, there were only 4.7% of strikers on Wednesday, January 15.
Despite the accelerated repetition of the national days of action, the strike has never taken on the expected inter-professional dimension. The private sector has remained totally out of the loop.
And the protests, the size of which has been decreasing, have never reached the level of the ten inter-union mobilizations of 2010 against Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform – which, according to the unions, had gathered up to 3.5 million protesters (against 1.8 million on December 17, 2019) and, according to the police, up to 1.23 million (806,000 on December 5, 2019), without achieving their objective of withdrawing from the project.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe's about-face, finally responding to Emmanuel Macron's wish to find "The way to a quick compromise" by withdrawing – at least temporarily – the pivotal age measure which was to reach 64 years in 2027, was a turning point.
Deeper divide between reformers and protesters
Laurent Berger, the secretary general of the CFDT, saw " a victory " in withdrawing from this pivotal age, which he describes as "Red cloth". By making this gesture to the reformist unions (CFDT, CFTC, National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions (UNSA)), the head of government sent a clear signal to the protesting centers (CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, FSU, Solidaires ), who started the movement on December 5, 2019: contrary to what they are clamoring for, loudly relayed by the political left, from the Socialist Party (PS) to the New Anti-Capitalist Party via La France insoumise (LFI) , there will be no outright withdrawal from the reform. Secretary General of the UNSA, Laurent Escure immediately accused the CGT, FO and LFI of having "Manipulated" the strikers by taking them " in the wall ".
For unions, it’s time to count. Clearly, none of them will emerge as a clear winner in this showdown, which has widened the divide between reformers and protesters, but there will be losers.