French strike over low wages brings several thousand to the streets

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Just months ahead of France’s presidential election in April, trade unions called a general strike on Monday, aiming to put economic questions at the heart of French political discourse – with what they see as excessively low wages a notable complaint. 

The strike aims to advance traditional left-wing economic concerns as the contest heats up in France’s presidential election in April 2022. The trade unions need “urgent answers” to their concerns, in particular perceived low pay, the head of hard-left union the CGT Philippe Martinez told journalists on Monday.

Street protests by striking workers “have an effect”, he continued, and this time Martinez hopes they will ensure that “socio-economic issues” are “even more central than they already are” to French political debates ahead of the presidential polls.

Martinez’s union said some 200 rallies were taking place across France, with around 25,000 people attending the largest event in Paris. Police reported crowds of 3,500 in Marseille and just over 2,000 in Lyon, but were yet to give figures for the French capital.

The CGT was one of four unions calling the strike – the others are the FO, FSU and Solidaires unions – along with four associations for young people, Fidl, Unef, UNL and MNL.

While giving unions a chance to flex their muscles ahead of the election campaign, the strike was a far cry from the mass mobilisation of workers against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension reforms, which brought major French cities to a standstill at several points during the winter of 2019-20.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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