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STRIKES

LATEST: French unions announce further strikes after one million join protest

After a successful "first day of mobilisation" in which 1 million people took to the streets, schools closed and trains and city public transport was paralysed, unions have announced a second day of mass strikes in their ongoing battle against pension reform.

LATEST: French unions announce further strikes after one million join protest
Demonstrators gather in Place de la Republique during a rally in Paris on January 19, 2023, as workers go on strike over the French President's plan to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. Photo by Alain JOCARD / AFP

Unions announced on Thursday evening that a second day of mass strike action – backed by all eight of France’s union federations – will take place on Tuesday, January 31st. 

“The message is very clear: the government must give up both the retirement age of 64 and the extension of the working life,” said a spokesman for the joint union action.

Full details of which services will be affected by the strikes are yet to be announced, but unions will be hoping for a repeat of Thursday’s action – which saw extremely limited service on trains and on public transport in most of France’s major cities.

Schools across the country were closed as teachers talked out, and other public services were disrupted by the action.

Demos in towns and cities across France saw a turnout of 1.1 million people, according to estimates from the Interior Ministry although unions claimed a higher figure.

‘Pension reform is an insult to the French people’ – more than 1 million people demonstrate

In addition to the January 31st strike, some unions are also talking about “extra actions and initiatives, including strikes around January 23rd” – which is the day the pension reform is presented to the Council of Ministers, the first step on the legislative journey. 

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against the pension reform – including raising the pension age from 62 to 64 –  which is due to come before parliament in March.

Some individual unions have already announced extra actions, such as the oil refinery workers who will be holding strikes and blockades at the end of January and beginning of February.

Calendar – French pension strike dates

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POLITICS

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers – French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

From coffee runs to rugby tickets and professional photos - France's election financing body has revealed some of the items it has refused to reimburse from the 2022 presidential race.

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers - French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

Spending on the election trail is tightly regulated in France, with maximum campaign spends per candidate as well as a list of acceptable expenses that can be reimbursed.

In France the State pays at least some of the election campaign costs, with the budget calculated according to how many votes the candidate ends up getting. 

READ MORE: 5 things to know about French election campaign financing

On Friday, the government body (la Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques – or CNCCFP) released its findings for the 12 candidates who ran in the April 2022 presidential campaign. 

All of the candidates had their accounts approved, but 11 out of the 12 were refused reimbursement on certain items. Here are some of the items that did not get CNCCFP approval;

Rugby tickets 

Jean Lassalle – the wildcard ‘pro farmer’ candidate who received about three percent of votes cast in the first round of the 2022 election – bought “19 tickets to attend a rugby match” according to the CNCCFP’s findings. The organisation said it would not be reimbursing the tickets and questioned “the electoral nature of the event”. 

The total cost of the tickets was €465 (or €24.50 each).

Too many coffees

Socialist candidate, and current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo reportedly spent at least €1,600 on coffee for her team during the campaign.

According to the CNCCFP, however, the caffeine needed to keep a presidential campaign running did not qualify under the country’s strict campaign financing rules.

Too many stickers

Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s was told that the 1.2 million stickers that were bought – to the tune of €28,875 – to advertise the campaign would not be reimbursed. Mélenchon justified the purchasing of the stickers – saying that in the vast majority of cases they were used to build up visibility for campaign events, but CNCCFP ruled that “such a large number” was not justified. 

Mélenchon was not the only one to get in trouble for his signage. Extreme-right candidate Éric Zemmour was accused of having put up over 10,000 posters outside official places reserved for signage. The same went for the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who decided to appeal the CNCCFP’s decision not to reimburse €300,000 spent on putting posters of her face with the phrase “M la France” on 12 campaign buses.

Poster pictures

Emmanuel Macron – who won re-election in 2022 – will not be reimbursed for the €30,000 spent on a professional photographer Soazig de la Moissonière, who works as his official photographer and took the picture for his campaign poster. 

The CNCCFP said that Macron’s team had “not sufficiently justified” the expenditure.

Expensive Airbnbs

Green party member Yannick Jadot reportedly spent €6,048 on Airbnbs in the city of Paris for some of his campaign employees – an expense that the CNCCFP said that public funds would not cover.

Translating posters

The campaign finance body also refused to reimburse the Mélenchon campaign’s decision to translate its programme into several foreign languages at a cost of €5,398.

The CNCCFP said that they did not consider the translations to be “an expense specifically intended to obtain votes” in a French election.

Best and worst in class

The extreme-right pundit Zemmour had the largest amount of money not reimbursed. Zemmour created a campaign video that used film clips and historic news footage without permission and also appeared on CNews without declaring his candidacy – because of these two offences, CNCCFP has reduced his reimbursement by €200,000. He has been hit with a separate bill of €70,000 after he was found guilty of copyright infringement over the campaign video. 

The star pupil was Nathalie Arthaud, high-school teacher and candidate for the far-left Lutte Ouvriere party, who apparently had “completely clean accounts”. A CNCCFP spokesperson told Le Parisien that if all candidate accounts were like Arthauds’, then “we would be unemployed”.

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