Members of the hard-left CGT trade union briefly occupied the headquarters of the Paris Summer 2024 Olympics on Tuesday on the 14th day of protests against government plans to raise the retirement age to 64.
BFM television images showed the protesters entering the building in Aubervilliers, northern Paris.
“Several dozen CGT militants got into the building for a few minutes to deploy banners against pension reform. There was no violence and no damage,” a Games spokesperson told Reuters.
Union leaders gathered in front of the National Assembly in Paris ahead of the nationwide protest marches in a last-ditch attempt to pressure lawmakers into scrapping a law that is already on the statute books.
President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to force the reform through with special constitutional powers prompted angry protests this spring, but the issue has slowly moved down the media agenda, making it harder for unions to mobilise.
“Protests have been going on for six months, it’s unprecedented,” Sophie Binet, the new leader of the hardline CGT union said on BFM TV. “There’s a lot of anger but also fatigue,” she said, adding that strikers were feeling the pinch on paychecks.
Binet nevertheless banked on an “extremely high” level of mobilisation on Tuesday and said CGT was prepared to keep up the fight against the reform in coming weeks.
Macron is enjoying a timid rebound in opinion polls, having launched a PR blitz after the reform passed that saw him criss-cross the country to confront public anger but also to announce big investments in new technologies.
Between 400,000 and 600,000 people were expected to join protests across France, authorities said, which would be down from more than a million who took part in marches at the height of the pension protests earlier this year.
French authorities deployed 11,000 police, including 4,000 in Paris, on Tuesday. Fuel deliveries were blocked from leaving TotalEnergies’s TTEF.P Donges site, near Nantes in western France where tension was building on the streets.
Earlier this month Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned on Twitter that “ultra-left members coming from abroad” could infiltrate the demonstrations.
Inter-city trains were likely to be only “slightly disrupted”, the SNCF railway company said, while the metro network in Paris was running as normal. One-third of flights out of Paris-Orly airport were cancelled.
“This is likely to be one of the last days of protests against the reform,” Laurent Berger, the leader of the more moderate CFDT union, told Europe 1 radio.
The CFDT must now turn anger into a “show of strength” in talks with the government on issues such as improving work conditions to purchasing power, he said.
The unions, which have kept a rare united front during the whole pension episode, are holding the nationwide strike just two days before an opposition-sponsored bill aimed at cancelling the minimum pension age increase is reviewed by parliament.
The provision is expected to be rejected by the lower house’s speaker, a member of Macron’s party, because under the constitution, lawmakers cannot pass legislation that weighs on public finances without measures to offset those costs.
But unions hope a big protest turnout could pressure lawmakers into reviewing the bill anyway and holding a vote.
Macron, who says the reform is essential to plug a massive deficit, will be hoping that the approaching summer holidays and improving inflation numbers will help the public move on.
The president’s popularity has gained four points in a monthly Elabe poll in June and eight points in a YouGov poll, although it is still languishing around 30%.