Mountains of Waste in Paris as Strike Continues

    21 March 2023

    A strike by French garbage collectors has led to mountains of trash sitting on the streets of Paris.

    The strike entered its 16th day on Tuesday. The strikers are protesting a recent decision by President Emmanuel Macron to raise the retirement age for garbage collectors from 57 to 59.

    Macron's administration pushed the legislation through Parliament last week without a vote. On Monday, the government won votes in Parliament on two proposals to withdraw support from Macron administration.

    Uncollected garbage is piled up on a street in Paris, March 15, 2023, during an ongoing strike by sanitation workers. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla, File)
    Uncollected garbage is piled up on a street in Paris, March 15, 2023, during an ongoing strike by sanitation workers. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla, File)

    Vincent Salazar is a 62-year-old artistic advisor who lives in Paris' Left Bank neighborhood. He spoke to The Associated Press about garbage blocking the streets. It smells bad. "I prefer Chanel to the stink," Salazar said. Chanel is a very famous French perfume maker.

    A mass of garbage sits at the corner of his building overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens. Salazar said he had seen rats climbing the mass.

    But he said he supports the striking garbage workers. "I'm fortunate to live here, but I'm 200 percent behind these guys," Salazar said. "They're smelling it all day long," he added. "They should get early retirement."

    Public opinion studies have shown that Salazar's position on the issue is shared by the majority of French people. They have said they oppose Macron's decision to raise the retirement age by two years.

    Many citizens and unions organizing the protests have called for the strikes to continue to force Macron's administration to reconsider its reforms.

    The mayor of Paris supports the strikers. She faces a conflict as City Hall officials have refused orders to get the garbage trucks on the streets. Officials argued that the duty was not theirs. Police Chief Laurent Nunez then ordered 674 garbage collectors and 206 garbage trucks back to work to provide basic service, police tweeted Tuesday.

    City officials said as of Monday, 9,300 tons of garbage remained on the streets.

    Workers in many industries, from transportation to energy, have been holding strikes on and off since January. And there is more ahead. Unions are planning nationwide marches and strikes for Thursday to pressure the government to withdraw the retirement measure.

    Tony Gibierge is a 36-year-old who plans to open a restaurant in several months in southern Paris. The street where the restaurant will be is currently filled with waste. "Garbage is a good way to protest. It has a big impact," he said.

    Gibierge was among those who have peacefully demonstrated through Paris, and other cities, with song and dance in recent weeks. "Now we have to send out the fire, stop dancing," he said. The message: "Nothing is over, and much of the garbage isn't going anywhere quite yet."

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press reported this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    garbage – n. waste

    prefer – v. to choose or like better than another

    stink – n. a strong offensive smell

    perfume – n. a substance that smells good

    fortunate – adj. lucky

    impact – n. an effect a person, event or situation has on something or something