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POLITICS

What is behind Thursday’s protests in France?

A total of 170 protests are planned across France on Thursday with workers across all sectors demanding a salary hike to cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Teachers take part in a mass strike in France.
Teachers take part in a mass strike in France. Another day of action, this time across all sectors, will take place on Thursday. (Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP)

Teachers are among those set to protest on Thursday as part of a mobilisation interprofessionnelle (cross-sector demonstration) for a salary increases. 

170 demonstrations and marches have been scheduled across France according to the CGT, one of the country’s biggest unions which has organised the demonstrations along with FO, FSU and Solidaires unions.

“No one can ignore the social and economic context, the price rises of essential products from food to energy and finally, the cost of living,” said the union in a statement. 

France experienced an inflation rate of 2.8 percent over the course of 2021 and workers say their budgets have been squeezed. 

“If in certain sectors and businesses protests and negotiations have led to salary increases, there are too many cases where negotiations have hit a brick wall,” said the CGT. 

“It is urgent and essential to act in unity through striking and protests for an immediate increase of all salaries in the private and public sector, payments for young people in training or looking for work and to improve the pensions of retired people.” 

The previous two Thursdays have seen strikes from teachers, but unions predict that this week only 20 percent of teachers in French primary schools and kindergartens would be on strike. This is a significant drop-off from two weeks ago when 3 out of 4 such teachers walked out in protest of the government’s handling of the pandemic in schools. 

When and where? 

The CGT has made an interactive map which shows where the protests will take place and at what time. Its members will march alongside other major trade unions such as the FO, FSU and Solidaires. 

In Paris, a march has been scheduled to begin at 11:30am at the place de la Bastille and will proceed slowly towards the Economy Ministry in the 12th arrondissement. 

This will likely hold up traffic in central Paris. 

Regional train services will be slightly disturbed according to SNCF. In Ile-de-France, one in three trains will run on the RER B, while three in four trains will run on the RER A, C and D lines, as well as the Transilien line H. 

Aid for living costs

Prime Minister Jean Castex has announced a number of measures to help offset the cost of inflation, including a tax break for drivers, a freeze in energy prices and a special energy grant for poorer French households. 

But unions say that this is not enough and left-wing candidates in the 2022 presidential elections including Communist Fabien Roussel,  Green Yannick Jadot and far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon have said that they will be joining the marches. 

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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