At 8am on Friday, Place d'Italie was covered in a cold layer of mist and car exhaust. Parisians with their faces wrapped in scarves huddled quickly towards the Metro station, hoping to get to work quickly. But a large metal grid was blocking the station. The station was closed. None of the lines could be accessed.
“Putain” swore Ahmed, 30, as he spotted the grid. This was the second closed Metro station he tried to access this morning. He was not feeling in a forgiving mood towards the strikers.
“They need to give us more information,” he said.
Like many other Parisians, Ahmed had expected the first day of the strike to be highly disruptive and had worked from home on Thursday. He had not, however, predicted that Friday would be just as bad.
“I knew there would be a strike today, but I thought there would be at least some Metros running,” he said.
Metro stations kept shut on Friday morning following unions' decision to prolong the strikes. Photo: AFP
Ahmed is an engineer working in the private sector. He said he generally supported social movements, but thought they needed to be better organised.
“How long will the strike last? We don’t know. What will happen? We don’t know that either,” he said.
Unions leading the protest claim Macron's proposal for a single pension system, which would eliminate dozens of separate plans for public sector workers, would force millions of people in both the public and private sectors to work well for longer and possibly beyond the official retirement age of 62 and face a drop in the value of their pensions.
The government will unveil details of the plan next week but has already said people will have to work longer to maintain a system that could have a deficit of up to 17 billion euros ($19 billion) by 2025.
Another disgruntled Metro commuter echoed Ahmed’s annoyance. As she prepared to walk for 40 minutes to get to work, a woman who would not be identified said she thought the transport sector strikers in the SNCF and RATP were behaving unfairly.
“They have so many advantages. I think it’s indecent,” she said.
Although she herself works in a part of the public sector that would be negatively affected by the proposed pension reform, she said she thought the reform to be “good”.
“We will have to transform our pension system sooner or later.”
When he spotted the metal grid blocking the entry, Ahmed, a 30-year-old engineer, exclaimed “putain.” He said that “I do support social movements, but they need to be organized. We need to know how long they’re planning to keep this going.”
— Ingri Bergo (@ingribergo) December 6, 2019
On Thursday Mohammad marched together with the strikers in Paris to protest the government’s pension reform. Today he said he has to get to work. But how?
“If Tolbiac (the next Metro station) is closed I guess I’ll have to call my school and tell them I’m in for an hour of walking,” he said.
“I want to retire before I get arthiritis.” Scores of people took to the streets all over France on Thursday to protest the government's proposed pension reform. Photo: AFP
Bit different on Paris Metro Line 7 today. Whereas yesterday it appeared many commuters had stayed at home and trains were fairly empty this mornin its hard to get on one given reduced service. What will Monday bring?#grevedu6decembre pic.twitter.com/SwR9RmVvs6
— Ben McPartland (@McPBen) December 6, 2019
It's another bitterly cold morning in Paris. Not ideal for cycling, scooting or walking to work across the city. Commuters will be missing those whiffy, warm, jam-packed Metro carriages. The pension reform strike will go until at least Monday #grevedu6decembre pic.twitter.com/wbD68NUSDZ
— Ben McPartland (@McPBen) December 6, 2019
Uber price doubled
Further down the street, Faisa, 42, tried to juggle Axel and Celian, twins of 7, while simultaneously checking the bus schedule on her phone and on the bus stop.
A single mother, she had to get the boys to school before herself going to work in an investment bank.
“Yesterday we took an Uber for €12. But this morning the price had gone up to €23,” she said.`
It was past 8.30am now and the bus sign said the next bus would come in 13 minutes. Then they had to take the tram.
But Faisa was in good spirits. While holding Celian in his collar to prevent him from tumbling into the street, she said that she thought the government needed to listen to the protesters.
“If people are this angry, there must be something wrong,” she said, adding that she would be fine with continuing the strenuous commute on Monday if she had to.
“You can’t just force people to accept things. We need dialogue.”
Faisa said she had been caught in the crossfire between ‘yellow vest’ protesters and police the day of the one-year anniversary of the movement.
“It was like a guerrilla fight, it was really sad,” she said.
“People are miserable, and government doesn’t seem to understand it.”