Motorway blockades as protests against pension reforms continue in France

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Motorway blockades as protests against pension reforms continue in France
Unionists block the Paris ring road in protest against pension reform (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

Violent demonstrations broke out across France on Thursday night in response to the government's pension decision, and protests have continued into Friday morning - meanwhile opposition politicians are preparing for votes of no-confidence in the government.


After President Emmanuel Macron's government used the Article 49.3 tool to push through his controversial pension reform without giving MPs a vote, outrage was felt both within and outside of parliament.

On Friday morning, protest actions continued as activists from the CGT union blocked the Paris périphérique, bringing traffic to a standstill.  

Several access points to the northern part of the city's ring road were blocked on Friday morning, namely the Porte de Saint-Cloud, Clignancourt, and Montreuil.


Blockades have been reported in other parts of France as well - according to France Bleu Nord, students were blocking the University campus of Lille 3 on Friday morning, and the site will be closed for the whole day.

On Friday morning, the CGT union representing oil refinery workers announced plans to shutdown the Gonfreville TotalEnergies refinery in Normandy.


Previously, employees had been on strike, but shipments from the reinfery had continued. "These will be stopped starting this weekend", Eric Sellini, the CGT coordinator for refinery workers told AFP on Friday. 

Left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon also said on Radio France that he "encourages spontaneous mobilisations throughout the country" against pension reform.

Vote of no-confidence

As for politicians, several members of opposition parties have threatened to file motions of no-confidence on Friday. They will have until 3:20pm to do so, and once tabled, these motions will need to be examined by the Assemblée Nationale within 48 hours.

Several motions of no-confidence are expected to be tabled on Friday. However, one small, independent party called "Liot" (Libertés, indépendants, Outre-mer et territoires) has already announced plans to file a vote of no-confidence, which will reportedly be tabled on Friday at 12pm, and it could bring together opposition parties.

READ MORE: What is Article 49.3 and how often do French politicians use it?

On Friday morning, left-wing former presidential candidate and leader of the France Unbowed party (LFI), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, told Radio France that his party has "decided to give the greatest possible chance to the motion, and therefore will withdraw [their] own in order to support the one put forward by Liot".

Member of the Les Republicains party, Ian Boucard, tweeted on Friday morning that he would also vote in favour of a motion put forward by Liot. 

Calls to increase protection for elected officials

French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, told RTL on Friday morning that he was seeking additional support from law enforcement to protect certain locations, such as town squares, across France. The minister also called for increased protection for elected officials. 


In total 310 people were arrested in France on Thursday night, 258 of them in Paris, after protests turned violent. In Paris police used water cannon and tear gas to clear the Place de la Concorde, while in Dijon members of the government were burned in effigy.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

There are more strikes to come, as the eight main union federations announced a new day of "strong mobilisation" against the plans on Thursday, March 23rd.

Some rolling strikes continue, with train traffic again disrupted on Friday - half of the normal high-speed TGV services are running and traffic is disrupted on the RER suburban rail services in Paris.


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