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The Light of Trash: Paris City Workers Strike Against Pension Reform

Paris, the City of Light, is experiencing a different kind of light – the light of piles of trash that has been accumulating since March 6th, when municipal garbage collectors went on strike in protest of the French government's plans to raise the retirement age to 64 and increase contributions for a full pension. Tourists visiting the city have been met with overflowing trash bins that have blocked sidewalks as well as an unpleasant smell.

The walkout is the result of a new bill that was proposed by the Macron government, potentially increasing retirement age requirements and pension contributions. This has caused an estimated over 6,000 tons of waste to cover half the city, with overfilled bins causing an unpleasant atmosphere for those looking for a Parisian getaway![0]

The strike is part of the nationwide protests against the government’s pension reform. Employees of the three incinerators that take care of Paris' rubbish have gone on strike, and the strike will last until Monday, March 20th at the earliest.[1] According to polls, over two-thirds of French citizens are against the pension reform proposed by President Emmanuel Macron and his centrist government, which they say is necessary to sustain the retirement system as the nation's population ages.[2]

The impact of rubbish, however, is not the same throughout the 20 districts of Paris, as some regions are looked after by private waste management firms while others are managed by municipal authorities.[3] In locations where private entities are responsible for waste management, garbage disposal operations have been proceeding moderately.[3] In the other districts, heaps of trash are obstructing the entrances of the metro and litter is strewn across the pavements.[3]

City trash collectors and cleaners have voted to continue their holdout until Monday, March 20th at the earliest.[4] Returning American tourist, Daniel Gore, commented, “This time we obviously noticed a difference — that there’s trash piled up — but we also know why and we understand.”[4]

Parliamentary debates have become highly divided due to the left and far right's vehement opposition to the pension reform bill.[2] President Macron is expecting the centrist alliance and Les Republicains party, a center-right organization, to provide the necessary votes for the Senate and National Assembly.[2] As of Wednesday, however, it was not guaranteed.[2]

It is essential to rally workers across the board to protect the garbage collectors and other workers whose right to strike is being challenged by the government.[5]

0. “Why Now Is Not The Best Time To Visit Paris” Travel Off Path, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.traveloffpath.com/why-now-is-not-the-best-time-to-visit-paris/

1. “Paris is stinking” The Spectator, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/paris-is-stinking/

2. “City of Light or City of Litter: Paris Reeling From Pension Reform Strikes” Voice of America – VOA News, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.voanews.com/a/city-of-light-or-city-of-litter-/7006499.html

3. “The City of Light is momentarily the City of Trash” News-Decoder, 17 Mar. 2023, https://news-decoder.com/the-city-of-lights-is-momentarily-the-city-of-trash/

4. “City of blight: Paris visitors alarmed at trash strike” CNA, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/world/city-blight-paris-visitors-alarmed-trash-strike-3346921

5. “Paris police assault garbage workers striking against Macron's cuts” WSWS, 18 Mar. 2023, https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2023/03/18/uxbd-m18.html

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