From our special correspondent
“It’s unheard of in the Eure! “, rejoices Olivier Guillot, secretary general of the CGT of the department. Perched on the rear platform of a truck in the colors of his union, microphone in hand, he harangues the crowd which is gradually gathering in front of the building of the prefecture of Évreux. “We are more than 12,000 today, there are more of us than on January 19! A report shared by the police, which lists 7,000 demonstrators, a thousand more than ten days ago. Figures from other towns in the region confirm the trend: “28,000 people in Caen, a record; 20,000 people in Cherbourg is huge! “, announces the trade unionist, euphoric. In Normandy, as in many medium-sized towns all over France, the mobilization against the pension reform was very important on Tuesday, January 31.
In Évreux, the demonstrators began to gather at 9:30 am, on the outskirts of the city center of this Norman town of 50,000 inhabitants. While waiting for departure, we calculate the age at which we can leave, we count our quarters, we estimate our pension. It is 10:40 a.m. when the procession sets off. “We have enough fuel to go as far as Matignon! jokes a trade unionist at the microphone.
The garish colors of the waistcoats and flags contrast with the pepper and salt hues of the hair, the majority in the procession. Christine, 59 years old and a whole career at the minimum wage “in the medico-social”, thinks of her 26-year-old daughter. “She will have to work until she is 70 if this continues! “Same fear in Jean-Marc, 75, who demonstrates” for others “against” an unjust reform “. He is against the postponement of the retirement age, which weighs “on those who start working young, and on women”. The few young people present in the procession often came with their families. Killian, 17, accompanies his father, who works in construction, and his mother, in insurance. The young man, who thinks that “protesting is useless”, will be “very happy to have a retirement, if it still exists” at the end of his career – he hesitates between the army and logging.
In the crowd, we meet unionized employees from different sectors – metallurgy, energy, chemicals – from companies in the region. Demonstrators in white coats display their membership of the various hospitals in the city. We also meet a lot of teachers. Marielle, 56, a middle school teacher in Mantes-la-Jolie, carpooled with Sylvie, 59, a high school CPE, and three other colleagues. “It’s nice to see so many people! they exclaim in chorus. Pushing back the retirement age is “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for those who denounce with one voice the high cost of living and deteriorating working conditions. Nina and Marie, 23, represent the future of the profession. The first is preparing the Capes, the second is already in place. Even if retirement seems to them “very far”, “it is now that it is played” to defend it, affirm the young women.
This “overrepresentation” of civil servants is “usual in demonstrations against pension reforms”, observes Laurent Chalard, geographer at the European Center for International Affairs. According to this specialist of the French territory, the strong mobilizations observed in the medium-sized cities are explained because “the civil servants are very numerous in the prefectures”, which are also “in the rural departments, the places of contestation of the central State, continues Laurent Chalard. This is where all the surrounding populations come together against the government’s policy”.
It is indeed in front of the hotel of the prefecture of Eure, in the city center, that the Ebroïcienne demonstration ends, shortly after noon. A new “historic” gathering, exults David Lecomte, secretary general of FO de l’Eure. “I do not remember having seen demonstrations like that in Évreux since my arrival at this post in 2003.” The trade unionist feared “a blow less good” after the success of January 19. The street proved him wrong.
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