Paris stinks! Fears of a rat invasion as garbage strike hits French capital

Paris stinks! Fears of a rat invasion as garbage strike hits French capital
Опубликовано: Tuesday, 14 March 2023 06:34

Politicians are clashing over who is to blame as garbage collectors’ walkout continues in row over pension reforms.


PARIS — In the French capital, the garbage collectors are on strike, which means there is stinking trash piled high in the streets, politicians screaming at one another, and a likely invasion by … rats!

Garbage 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 waste. That’s because the city’s garbage collectors have been on strike since March 6 in protest at a controversial reform of France’s pension system championed by President Emmanuel Macron.

The reform would increase the age of retirement for garbage collectors — who can at present retire early with reduced benefits on account of the hardship of their work, which has been shown to affect their life expectancy — from 57 to 59.

As a consequence, around 5,600 tons of uncollected waste lay in the streets of the capital on Monday — day eight of the strike — according to the Paris mayor’s office, quoted by French newswire AFP.

“It’s shitty, it’s not pretty and it smells,” said Mathilde Boyer, 23, who lives in the southern 15th district.

Although she is worried about the sanitary risks, Boyer says she is sympathetic to the garbage workers’ cause. “It shows that there are little hands everywhere in Paris, and that their work — and right to a decent life and pension — should be respected.”

Rats in Paris

But people aren’t just worried about a few garbage bags — the real issue is that Paris, like most large cities, is infested with rats.

For every person living in Paris, there are 1.5 to 1.75 rats, making the City of Lights is one of the most infested cities in the world, and prompting the French National Medicine Academy to issue a warning last July about the “threat to the human health” posed by rats and the diseases they can pass on to humans.

The issue caused a political brawl over the weekend, after the mayors of several Parisian districts argued the strike threatened to turn into a major public health risk, and called on the mayor of Paris, the Socialist Anne Hidalgo, to take action.

The dispute escalated on Sunday evening as Transport Minister — and wannabe Paris mayor — Clément Beaune blamed the mayor’s office for the situation.

“Seventh day without garbage collection. Stench and rotting,” wrote Beaune on Twitter on Sunday night alongside pictures showing bins overflowing with garbage bags.

“Umpteenth example of inaction and disdain towards Parisians,” he added — which prompted Hidalgo’s office to respond.

Des #éboueurs toujours en #grève, 5.400 tonnes de déchets non ramassées à #Paris pic.twitter.com/52ixeva0h5

— Guillaume Asskari (@Gasskari) March 12, 2023

“Rotting is what characterizes your vision of social dialogue,” said Deputy Mayor Antoine Guillou. “If you’re really worried about Parisians and French people, withdraw your unfair pensions reform, which they massively reject.”

In an interview on French TV on Monday morning, the government’s spokesperson Olivier Véran also blamed Hidalgo, who he accused of supporting the strike.

“What’s the message sent by the mayor of Paris? It’s up to her to clear it up with the Parisians,” Véran said.

According to the daily Le Parisien, the strike will last at least until Wednesday, when representatives from trade unions are set to vote on whether to continue striking.

But it could go on for longer, as unions have said they will keep striking until the government withdraws its pension reform, which aims to increasing the legal retirement age from 62 to 64.

With a series of parliamentary votes — which are set to be very close — scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, the reform could be formally adopted by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, Parisians are getting ready to wait it out.

The garbage “is not a particularly enjoyable sight, but that’s also the goal of the strike,” said Guillaume Meigniez, 28, a long-time resident of northern Paris.

Meigniez said he’s not particularly worried about the rats, because they’re already “quite numerous” in normal times ” and “they’re not going to start ganging up and attacking people.”

But “if the rats come out, it might shake things up a bit,” he said.

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