The mountains of garbage in the streets of Paris make people feel anti-pension reform protests | news today

Garbage bags piled up near the Eiffel Tower.

Garbage bags piled up near the Eiffel Tower.


“I’ve never seen this,” says an astonished Canadian. In Paris, the most visited city in the world, tourists must dodge the garbage piled up in its iconic places by a collectors’ strike against an unpopular pension reform.

On the banks of the Seine River, debris blocks the view of Notre Dame. To contemplate the famous cathedral built between the 12th and 14th centuries in the heart of the capital and damaged by a fire in 2019, one must abstract.

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Tourists want to see the Eiffel Tower from the impressive Trocadero esplanade, but when they exit the metro, they must first walk through a wall of plastic bags. In the center, the once romantic alleys are strewn with boxes and cardboard, sometimes with spoiled food.

“I’ve never seen this in Canada,” says Omera, a Canadian tourist with pink-tinted hair, just after taking a photo of the trash piled up in Saint Michel, in the Latin Quarter. “This will make the tourists flee!” she predicts.

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Martin Ruiz, an 18-year-old American, laments the smell: “It’s disgusting.” “The smell is unpleasant to be able to eat food or walk around the city,” adds Ángeles Mosqueda, a Mexican tourist, who wears a purple beret in front of the Paris Opera.

The German Claudia Harmand, accompanied by her “darling” Frenchman, explains the unlikely “slalom through the rubbish”, which “spoils the charm of the city a bit”. “Not great,” she acknowledges with a smile.

The City of Light, which received some 34.5 million tourists in 2022 according to the authorities, registers significant social discontent against a reform promoted by the liberal president Emmanuel Macron, which is opposed by two out of three French people.

To force the government to back down, the unions intensified their actions last week with extendable strikes in key sectors such as energy and transport, after having organized massive demonstrations in January and February.

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– “Obviously not the best” –

In Paris, municipal waste collection employees rubbish They began their strike more than a week ago, which affects half of the capital, and this Tuesday they decided to extend it until March 20.

One of them, Nabil Latreche, 44, denounces the fact of having to work more years, despite having a “painful” job. “We work rain, snow or wind (…) When we are behind the truck, we breathe volatile things. We have many occupational diseases, ”he assures.

When I retire, “I know I’ll live poor” with a pension of 1,200 euros ($1,280) at most, laments Murielle Gaeremynck, a 56-year-old woman who has been a garbage collector for two decades.

His colleagues from private companies, which operate in the rest of the capital, are facing the blockade of the incinerator plants. In total, 6,600 tons of garbage accumulate in the streets, a volume that increases every day.

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On vacation in Paris, thousands of tourists find themselves immersed in the French social conflict. For Mark, from the US state of Kansas, empathy is relative. “The strike will not change anything. If you have to retire later, then it’s done, ”says the man, who pushes his baby’s stroller.

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The British Olivia Stevenson, on the other hand, supports strikes “anywhere”, be it in France or the recent ones in your country. Garbage in Paris “spoils sight and smell,” but “retirement and salary are important to many people,” he explains.

“Obviously, it is not the best for foreign tourists,” acknowledges Jean-François Rial, the president of the Paris Convention and Tourism Office, but “it will not damage the image” of the city.

“Even two weeks without garbage collection had not harmed Naples,” says the man, for whom the social conflict will not take its toll “on the tourist frequentation of this wonderful city.”

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