France prepares for May Day protests, first test for newly re-elected Macron

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PARIS, April 30 (Reuters) – Like many on the left, Isabelle-Touria Boumhi, a 60-year-old auxiliary nurse, says that supporting Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election in France would have been to choose “between the plague and cholera.”

She did not vote. Instead, she is preparing to take part in the May Day protests next Sunday.

And, in what could foreshadow what a newly re-elected Macron might expect when he pursues business-friendly reforms, including a plan to push back the retirement age, Boumhi says she will take to the streets as often as necessary to block this.

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“It’s the only way we have left to get something,” said the single mother who, with a gross salary of just under 2,000 euros ($2,107) she needs to house and feed her and her 22-year-old daughter, who is a student, must count every penny.

“Before, I used to allow myself something extra once in a while, but now, once I’ve paid the electricity bill, the rent… I would have a hard time going on vacation.”

The cost of living was the main theme of the presidential election campaign and should be just as important ahead of the June legislative elections as Macron’s party and its allies must win if it is to be able to implement its policies.

His current government has put price caps on gas and electricity price increases and he has promised further measures, including increased pensions, to try to protect consumers’ purchasing power. in a context of sharply rising prices.

But inflation hit a new high of 5.4% in April, while growth stalled in the first quarter, giving fodder to opponents and street protests.

Boumhi started receiving a monthly bonus of 228 euros on top of her salary last year, as part of government measures to improve the lot of healthcare workers, but she says that has not assuaged her anger nor been enough to enable him to live more comfortably.

She will march on Sunday for pay rises and to push Macron to scrap plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 65. “If we don’t get anything, things could get out of hand,” she said. “There’s a lot of anger built up.”

Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, will also be in the May Day rallies on Sunday.

And he has quite a few messages for the government.

“The government needs to fix the purchasing power problem by raising wages,” Martinez told Reuters in an interview. Read more

Macron “cannot repeat what he did in 2017, when he considered everyone who voted for him agreed with his program,” Martinez said, pointing out that many backed Macron both times. not because they agreed with his platform but to block the far right. candidate Marine Le Pen to be elected.

The CGT will call on workers to keep the pressure on Macron in the streets and with strikes after the May Day rallies as well, he said, stressing that “if there is no pressure on the president, he will consider that he has the reins free to continue”. anti-social reforms.

And even the more moderate Laurent Berger, of the CFDT union, urged Macron in a Le Monde op-ed to listen to workers’ demands or face harsh street protests.

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Reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Diane Craft

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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