French President Emmanuel Macron is bracing for the biggest strike during his term as the president as millions of workers, including police, lawyers and hospital staff, will be part of a general walkout. The strike can cause severe disruption since it is expected to end beyond December 5 and some trade unions have even warned to continue industrial action until Macron announces reversal on his campaign promise.
Macron wants to move away from the system of dozens of pension schemes to a universal points-based pension system, aimed at rewarding employees based on their daily work. Unions are unhappy with the pension reforms since they are being forced to retire later or avail reduced pensions. The official retirement age in France is currently 62 but according to the new plan, anyone retiring before 64 will get a lower pension.
As nurses and hospital staff are supposed to walk out during the nation-wide strike, hospital services will take a hit during the period. The health ministry is preparing to deal with such a situation. Majority of primary teachers are expected to take part in industrial action which will force many schools across the country to shut. A number of yellow-vest protesters are also planning to join the demonstrations.
France has been facing various protests in recent times, especially from the yellow vest protesters who began a revolutionary movement in 2018 demanding economic justice. They have been demanding increment in minimum wages, tax burden, rising fuel prices and high cost of living.
In April, when the French government decided to rebuild the Notre-Dame Cathedral after it got damaged in the massive fire, the yellow vest protesters took to streets with a message “look at me — I need help too!”. The protesters wanted to send the message that the poor were being ignored by the French government.
The protesters chose yellow vests as "a unifying thread and call to arms”. Yellow vests are used because of their accessibility, cost, convenience, visibility, and association with working-class industries. In France, all drivers are required to wear yellow vests and to wear during emergency situations.