France is facing a garbage crisis as workers in the waste collection sector join a nationwide strike over President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform. The strike, which started on January 19, has caused piles of trash to accumulate on the streets of Paris and other cities, creating a health and environmental hazard.
The workers are protesting against a bill that would raise the retirement age for most workers by two years, from 62 to 64. The bill is expected to become law this week, despite widespread opposition from unions and the public. According to opinion polls, around two-thirds of French people are against the legislation, which they see as unfair and unnecessary.
The strike has also affected other sectors, such as transport, education, health and energy. Oil refineries have been blocked by protesters, causing fuel shortages in some regions. Trains, buses and subways have been disrupted, forcing commuters to find alternative ways to get around. Schools have been closed or partially open, affecting millions of students. Hospitals have faced staff shortages and delays in services.
The government has defended the pension reform as a way to simplify the system and make it more sustainable in the face of an aging population. It has also offered some concessions to certain professions, such as teachers, police and firefighters. However, the unions have rejected the proposals and demanded a complete withdrawal of the bill.
The strike is the latest challenge for Macron, who has faced several social movements since he took office in 2017. The most notable one was the yellow vests movement, which started in late 2018 and lasted for more than a year. The movement was sparked by a fuel tax hike, but soon expanded to include broader demands for economic and social justice.
The strike is also seen as a test for Macron’s popularity ahead of the 2023 presidential election, in which he is expected to seek a second term. His main rival is likely to be Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Rally party, who has criticized the pension reform and supported the strikers.