A strike by Paris garbage collectors is now in its 16th day. This is not the Paris you have visited and admired for its pristine beauty. The embattled City of Light is groaning under mountains of the smelly stuff.
A server for the past 26 years at Le Bistro du Dome, specializing in fish, adjacent to the famed restaurant Le Dome, said some 50% of diners had disappeared in the past 10 days. Other restaurants are suffering the same fate.
“I prefer Chanel to the stink,” joked Vincent Salazar, a 62-year-old artistic consultant who lives in a posh Left Bank neighborhood. A pile of garbage sits at the corner of his building overlooking the Luxembourg Gardens. Not surprisingly, the rats are coming out too, adding to the woes.
But like many nonchalant and strike-hardened Parisians, Salazar doesn’t mind, he supports the strikers.
“I’m fortunate to live here, but I’m 200% behind these guys,” Salazar said. “They’re smelling it all day long,” he said, though “it” wasn’t the word he used. “They should get early retirement.”
He is among the majority of French who, polls show, oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age by two years, from 62 to 64 for most and from 57 to 59 for garbage collectors.
Macron rammed the showcase legislation of his second term through Parliament last week — without a vote, thanks to a special constitutional article. On Monday, the government won two no-confidence motions put forth by angry lawmakers. The bill is now considered adopted.
But garbage became embroiled in the politics. And neither unions organizing protests nor some citizens are prepared to back down.
The Socialist mayor of Paris, who supports the strikers, found herself in a bind. City Hall refused orders to get the trucks out, saying it’s not their job. Police Chief Laurent Nunez then ordered garages unblocked and ordered 674 sanitation personnel and 206 garbage trucks back to work to provide a minimal service, police tweeted Tuesday.
Sure enough, a green Paris garbage truck was seen collecting a long, high pile of rubbish Tuesday outside a school on a Left Bank street — although the truck was full long before all the refuse could be cleaned up. With incinerators blocked, the garbage was being taken to a storage site outside Paris.
Garbage collectors are not the only workers who have been holding intermittent strikes since January. But it is the garbage in the French capital that has made garbage collectors, long taken for granted, visible — and their anger obvious.
“Garbage is a good way to protest. It has a big impact,” said Tony Gibierge, 36, who is opening a restaurant in several months on a street in southern Paris — a street currently heaped with garbage.
City Hall said that as of Monday, 9,300 tons of rubbish remained on the streets.
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