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Students join in as French strikes lose momentum

University students join in with the nationwide anti-pension reform strikes – as waste collection and oil refining resumes.

Students in Paris West University Nanterre La Défense vote last week to go on strike this week, coinciding with their mid-term break.
Students in Paris West University Nanterre La Défense vote last week to go on strike this week, coinciding with their mid-term break.
Image: Michel Euler/AP

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS across France are today joining in in the protests across the country against proposed pension reforms – but their input could be coming too late, as some of the major unions engineering the protests vote to return to work.

Ahead of an anticipated all-out national strike on Thursday, with Parliament excepted to complete ratification of the new reforms on Wednesday night, third-level students are holding protests today in protest at the measures, which raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

The students have chosen to wait until now to join in with the protests because the bulk of them are on a mid-term break this week, and will not have their academic schedules disrupted by their protests as a result.

High school students, by comparison, staged mass walk-outs of their classes last week.

It is widely believed, however, that the level of student turnout will be a key measure of how likely the strikes are to be able to keep going – with the strikes in danger of petering out entirely, after a number of significant unions decided to scrap their protests.

Rubbish collectors in the southern port of Marseille – whose downtime had become iconic as pictures emerged of the city choked with mountains of trash – today return to work after a two-week absence, while fuel supply depots and oil refineries are also returning to work today and resume supplies to petrol pumps, many of which have closed in recent days amid fuel shortages.

The absence of a reliable supply of petrol across the country had crippled the manufacturing sector in recent days, with finance minister Christine Lagarde yesterday estimating that the strikes were the economy up to €400m a day.

“I salute the return to dialogue and reason,” Lagarde said on Radio Classique this morning. “The economy needs to function and to do that we need an end of these blockages.”

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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