“Motivated, motivated, you have to stay motivated”. It is 2 p.m. on boulevard Voltaire in Paris when the demonstrators take up this refrain in chorus to show their determination on this tenth day of action against the pension reform. “Working kills”, can we read on a t-shirt. On a drawing, Marianne is in tears. A little further on, a group of young people hold up a doll in the likeness of Elisabeth Borne, with a stern look.
But it is above all the wind of memory that blows in the street. In the processions, we remember the mobilization in 2006 against the first employment contract (CPE). A work contract for people under 26, with a two-year trial period. The law had been promulgated, but the government of Dominique de Villepin had ended up giving it up, faced with the scale of the dispute which had lasted three months. An episode that Floriane, 35, evokes: “At the time, I even blocked her high school. I had not been back on the streets since the CPE, but with this pension reform, I did not hesitate. I dream that the scenario of the CPE is replayed and that the government backtracks, ”she says, before pounding the pavement again. Behind the cordon of union leaders, the number one of the CFDT, Laurent Berger also remembers 2006: “Today like yesterday, there is always time not to apply a bad text. »
A transgenerational protest like in 2006
In the crowd, we meet all generations. A bit like in 2006, because even if young people were the target of this CPE, their elders had come to lend them a hand to challenge the device. A broadening of the protest movement which had ended up weighing. In 2023, it is young people who come to support their parents or grandparents, notes Céline, a librarian, who has held all the demonstrations since January: “They are not immediately concerned by the pension reform, but realize they will be tomorrow. Moreover, they are much more numerous than at previous demonstrations. These are new forces to carry the movement, ”she says, before joining her colleagues.
Imane Ouelhadj, president of Unef, who parades at the head of the procession, also draws the parallel between 2006 and 2023: “Today, more than half of the universities are blocked. This is the first time this has happened since the CPE. And even some universities like Cergy or Dauphine which are not considered as non-protesters, are involved in the movement. It proves the widespread fed up of youth. According to her, as in 2006, it is clearly the young people who can tip the scales: “The government is clearly afraid of the mobilization of young people”, she assures. “Young people, once they are outside, we don’t know when they will come back,” says Floriane.
An irritating use of 49.3, in 2006 as in 2023
In the discussions of the demonstrators, as on their signs, we feel that it is the government’s recourse to 49.3 to have its pension reform adopted which crystallizes the tensions. “49.3 minutes of silence for democracy”, can we read on a card. “49.3 stop the scheming”, is it written on another. An article also used by Dominique de Villepin in 2006 to pass the bill for equal opportunities, which included the disputed CPE. This had rekindled popular anger. A bit like in recent weeks: “The 49.3 was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I’ve never seen such stubbornness in a government”, comments Anne, 62, just retired who wouldn’t have seen himself working two more years.
If the demonstrators parade in peace, all have in mind the recent clashes between certain opponents of the reform and the police. Overflows that also took place in 2006 and contributed to the government’s decision to back down on the CPE. “We can see that the movement is hardening, even if we do not condone this violence. And the fact that the government rejects the idea of mediation with the unions throws oil on the fire,” said Maëlle Nizan, vice-president of Fage. In the distance, a group of demonstrators chant “nothing can stop us”.