October 5, 2021
PARIS (Reuters) – French labour unions marched for better pay and social benefits, as prices for energy and food rise and the government resumes a reform programme interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Thousands marched in cities across France, warning President Emmanuel Macron not to restart a reform drive that was halted during the pandemic and urging him not to touch the pension and unemployment insurance systems.
“It is important to show that the anger and the social problems are still there, more than ever, as we resume social action,” hard-left CGT union secretary general Philippe Martinez told Reuters at a march in Paris.
He said his union was marching for higher salaries, as frontline workers still have the same pay levels as before the COVID crisis, while prices are spiralling upwards.
Force Ouvriere union leader Yves Veyrier told Reuters that a 2.2% increase of the minimum wage this month was only catching up with past inflation, and he called on employers’ federations to start talks about higher wages.
“There is an immediate emergency on salaries … the recent price increases for gas, electricity, fuel and food … will hit people hard this winter. That’s why we are telling the government that we need a real boost to minimum wages,’ he said.
Ministers defended the centrist government’s policies in parliament on Tuesday, saying that the replacement wages put in place for workers furloughed by the pandemic had been the largest worker support programme seen in France seen in decades.
“Nobody has protected French people more than we have in these past months,” Labour Minister Elizabeth Borne said.
(Reporting by Clotaire Achi, Ardee Napolitano and Geert De Clercq; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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