Paris Trash Strike Ends, Pension Protest Numbers Shrink

People ride scooters in front of security forces during a demonstration as part of the 10th day of nationwide strikes and protests against the French government’s pension reform in Paris, France, March 28, 2023. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

PARIS (AP) — Striking sanitation workers in Paris are set to return to work Wednesday — potentially ending one of the most enduring symbols of resistance to French President Emmanuel Marcon’s controversial pension bill, as nationwide protests also appeared to be winding down.

Clean-up crews were set Wednesday to start picking up heaps of trash that had piled up over their weekslong strike beginning March 6 — as well as debris from the streets following the 10th nationwide anti-pension reform protest a day earlier.

Trash mounds of up to 10,000 tons along the French capital’s streets — matching the weight of the Eiffel Tower — have become a striking visual and olfactory symbol of opposition to Marcon’s bill raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

In a decision that sent waves of relief among some Paris residents, the powerful CGT union representing sanitation workers announced that the three-week-long strike would be “suspended” as of Wednesday. They will join others who were legally requisitioned over the last week to help with the daunting clean-up process.

The suspension of the strike, together with the dwindling protest numbers, is seen by some as the beginning of the end of demonstrations against the pension bill.

Tuesday’s protests in Paris saw dozens of arrests and flare-ups of violence, though significantly fewer people participated in the action nationwide.

The Interior Ministry put the number of demonstrators nationwide at 740,000, down from more than one million five days ago when protesters voiced their rage at Macron’s order to ram the bill through Parliament without a vote.

For unions, the fight against the law is far from over. An 11th day of action is scheduled for April 6.

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