(Paris) A putrid smell has gradually taken hold in recent days in Paris. Light, but very real.
Garbage bags have been piling up on sidewalks since March 7; you have to learn to slalom there. In front of the buildings, waste in hand, the inhabitants try to find a small place for their packaging, their leftover food, everything that they can no longer store at home.
“I’m breaking up all the boxes we’ve accumulated, but I know I can’t put them all on the street, there’s no room!” “Laments Amélie, a shopkeeper from the 12th arrondissement.
Parisians are learning to appreciate the essential work of garbage collectors. Like many others, the 2,500 men and women who empty their bins have gone on strike. And some 10,000 tons of trash await them on the sidewalk.
For them, as for 68% of French people (according to the latest survey), there is no question of letting the pension reform wanted by Emmanuel Macron and his government pass. “Embel to elbow with all the workers in struggle, all professional sectors, we will bring to their knees those who want to make us die at work”, assures the majority union of the profession (CGT FTDNEEA).
“The fact that the garbage collectors go on strike makes it possible to affect all Parisians, including those who rarely see the effects of the mobilization in the heart of the capital, believes Léo, a young Parisian. It is a good thing that there is a demonstration of discontent, which could not have taken place during the presidential campaign. It shows that people are worried about this reform. »
Flagship measure of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign program, the pension reform has crystallized all the tensions in France in recent weeks. If this text has 20 articles providing for a review of the financing of pensions, it is article 7 which has boosted the indignation of the workers, this one postponing by two years – from 62 to 64 years – the authorized retirement and extending the contribution period. Difficult and precarious professions are the first losers announced from this reform.
The garbage collectors’ strike, more than any other, has highlighted the deep divisions that exist between the French. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and her leftist team support the fight against the reform. “[The garbage collectors] were there in March 2020 when you were locked up! They are here today to keep food markets going! So thank you to the agents, thank you to the mobilization, congratulations for what they do for them and for the others, “said Colombe Brossel, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of the cleanliness of public space, sorting , waste reduction, recycling and reuse at the last Paris Council.
In one of the most famous markets in Paris, that of Aligre (12th arrondissement), a market gardener admits: “We have big dumpsters for our waste, it’s not a problem. But it’s true that around the market, it’s hell. Yesterday they came to pick up a bit, it left streaks…”
After having nevertheless been refused by Anne Hidalgo – “the situation […] is entirely attributable to the government’s desire to legislate to raise the retirement age” – the prefect of Paris decided to requisition certain agents to clean up sidewalks. A few dump trucks, unable to absorb the extent of the situation on their own, roam the streets.
But the waste treatment plants are still blocked and inaccessible.
On Friday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne used her ultimate weapon: Article 49.3 of the Constitution, which allows the government to pass a bill without having it voted on by the National Assembly, so as not to risk its rejection.
It was enough to stir up the anger of the French people opposed to this reform. On the Place de la Concorde, opposite the headquarters of the National Assembly, an improvised demonstration took place in the wake of the speech on March 17. Burning garbage cans served as a barricade: Paris looked like a revolution.
Elsewhere in France, gatherings are also increasing.
Because all is not lost.
In the meantime, the Paris prefecture has banned all gatherings on Place de la Concorde and on Avenue des Champs-Élysées to avoid clashes during the weekend.
On Saturday March 18, the Parisian demonstrators therefore had to find another rallying point. It was Place d’Italie (13th arrondissement) at 6 p.m. that the meeting was given. The opportunity to remobilize the population before a week which promises to be made up of daily gatherings.
The inter-union calls for a massive demonstration on Thursday, March 23. A prospect that does not delight Bastien, a fruit and vegetable seller near the Place de la Bastille (4th arrondissement). “We can’t afford to close to strike. Every time there is a demonstration, we lose half of our turnover,” he says.
The Paris garbage collectors’ strike notice is also still relevant. In waste treatment plants, the strategy has changed. No more blockage, but filtering dams. Only 80 dump trucks will enter each day, compared to 400 in normal times.
A delicious week is therefore still announced for the rats of the French capital. They will revel in bags which, demonstrators now know, easily go up in smoke.