Postman, firefighter, teacher: the French defying Macron
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Paris (AFP) –
More than 800,000 people took to the streets across France on Thursday on the first day of a nationwide strike over President Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms.
Whether a postman, maths teacher, physiotherapist or firefighter, all said they were not just demonstrating over the shake-up of the pensions system but for better working conditions generally.
- Better pensions -
Claire, a 32-year-old firefighter from the southern Alpes-Maritimes region:
"I'm demonstrating today to demand that our profession be recognised as hazardous, which would give us the right to better pensions.
"We also want more staff as our numbers are constantly falling. As doctors become more scarce in the countryside, making it increasingly difficult to get an emergency call out, we're the ones people turn to.
"But when we come to the rescue, in 80 percent of cases it's something that we cannot resolve. So we send people to hospital, which clogs up emergency rooms."
- Against 'the whole system' -
Romain Rozat, 37-year-old maths teacher in a Paris high school:
"The pension reform is just the spark that sent us into the street. We're protesting against an entire system, including a reform of school curriculum last year which did not go down well. It's a disaster for students.
"The continuous assessment that was put in place makes it harder for students to get into college. There's not much we can do as teachers as schools' budgets for teaching hours are being cut."
- Public service pride -
Serge Wattelet, a 59-year-old postman in the western Paris suburb of Sartrouville:
"I'm demonstrating against the pension reforms but not only. Our profession has been turned upside down. I was happy and proud when I joined the postal service in 1982 but it's less and less a source of pride nowadays.
"These days, we no longer provide a proper public service. A lot of postal workers are on short-term contracts, which has an impact on the quality of service.
"In the past, we used to prepare the mail and deliver it. Today, the tasks are divided up and mechanised. It's feels as if our profession is being taken away from us."
- Doing the 'dirty' work -
Wahid Chouchane, a 29-year-old employee of state electricity grid operator Enedis:
"When I signed my contract I was supposed to retire at 55. Now it's 62. But in our job, whether there's hail, wind or snow, we go out into the mud, into the fields, to repair electricity lines. The only thing that stops us is lightning.
"In the place where I worked previously, three of my oldest colleagues died before reaching retirement age.
"That's why I'm demonstrating, to show that our job is difficult and wears you out. Those who govern us don't understand the value of work. They're not getting their hands dirty like us."
- For the right to protest -
Harold Herrou, 25-year-old physiotherapist from the western city of Nantes, part of the "yellow vest" protest movement:
"I came in my FC Nantes football jersey because the police took my yellow vest last week when I was demonstrating in Paris.
"Today, I'm not only demonstrating over pensions but also for the firefighters, the nurses, for people sleeping in the street at a time of mass tax evasion.
"It's also for the right to protest and because the people around me don't seem to really care."
- Our forefathers fought -
Georges Miath, a 56-year-old employee of Otis elevator company in Paris:
"I'm marching to defend our living conditions, which are being undermined. Between staff cuts and shortages we're being asked to do more with less but without any extra pay. Meanwhile, the cost of living is going up.
"Our forefathers fought so that we could enjoy better living conditions.
"Blood was shed but now everything is falling apart. Out of respect for them, and to ensure a better future for our children, we have a duty to be here. If not, at what age will they retire at? 70? 75?"
© 2019 AFP