Paris stinks! Rat invasion fears as trash strike hits French capital – POLITICO
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PARIS – In the French capital, garbage collectors are on strike, which means there is stinking rubbish piled up in the streets, politicians shouting at each other and a probable invasion of… rats!
Trash bags could be seen piling up on the sidewalks of Paris over the weekend – especially in areas with many restaurants – forming shoulder-high piles of rubbish. Indeed, the city’s garbage collectors have been on strike since March 6 to protest against a controversial reform of the French pension system championed by President Emmanuel Macron.
The reform would increase the retirement age of garbage collectors – who can currently retire early with reduced benefits due to the arduous nature of their work, which affects their life expectancy – from 57 to 59 years.
As a result, around 5,600 tons of uncollected waste lay in the streets of the capital on Monday – the eighth day of the strike – according to Paris City Hall, quoted by French newswire AFP.
“It’s crap, it’s not pretty and it stinks,” said Mathilde Boyer, 23, who lives in the 15th south.
Even if she is worried about health risks, Boyer says she is sensitive to the cause of garbage collectors. “It shows that there are small hands everywhere in Paris, and that their work – and their right to a decent life and pension – must be respected.”
Rats in Paris
But people aren’t just worried about a few trash bags – the real problem is that Paris, like most big cities, is infested with rats.
For every inhabitant of Paris, there are 1.5 to 1.75 rats, which makes the City of Light one of the most infested cities in the world, and prompted the National Academy of Medicine to issue last July an alert on the “threat to humanity”. health” posed by rats and the diseases they can transmit to humans.
The issue sparked a political tussle over the weekend, after the mayors of several Parisian districts argued that the strike threatened to turn into a major risk to public health and called on the mayor of Paris, socialist Anne Hidalgo, to act.
The dispute escalated on Sunday night as Transport Minister – and future Paris mayor – Clément Beaune blamed the mayor’s office for the situation.
“Seventh day without garbage collection. Stench and rot,” writing Beaune on Twitter on Sunday evening alongside photos showing trash cans overflowing with trash bags.
“Another example of inaction and contempt for Parisians,” he added, prompting Hidalgo’s office to react.
“Rotting is what characterizes your vision of social dialogue”, said Deputy Mayor Antoine Guillou. “If you really care about Parisians and French people, withdraw your unjust pension reform, which they overwhelmingly reject.”
In an interview on French television on Monday morning, government spokesman Olivier Véran also accused Hidalgo, whom he accuses of supporting the strike.
“What is the message sent by the mayor of Paris? It’s up to her to make things clear with the Parisians”, Véran said.
According to the daily Le Parisien, the strike will last at least until Wednesday, when union representatives must vote on whether or not to continue the strike.
But it could last longer as unions have said they will continue to strike until the government withdraws its pension reform, which aims to raise the statutory retirement age from 62 to 64.
With a series of parliamentary votes – which should be very tight – scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, the reform could be formally adopted by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, the Parisians are preparing to wait.
The trash “is not a particularly pleasant sight, but it is also the purpose of the strike”, said Guillaume Meigniez, 28, a longtime resident of northern Paris.
Meigniez said he wasn’t particularly worried about the rats, as they are already “quite numerous ‘in normal times’ and ‘they’re not going to start clustering together and attacking people’.
But “if the rats come out, it might shake things up a bit,” he said.