French railway workers stormed the Paris offices of financial giant BlackRock on Thursday, protesting against the nation's recent pension reforms that raised the retirement age from 62 to 64.
For nearly two weeks, citizens have been protesting French President Emmanuel Macron's decision to override a constitutional provision to advance the controversial bill through Parliament.
Labor unions and other organizations have organized nationwide strikes and protests in response to concerns about the state retirement fund's looming insolvency.
Demonstrators entered the historic Le Centorial building in central Paris, where BlackRock has a third-floor office, chanting slogans and lighting firecrackers, Reuters reported.
“The government wants to throw away pensions, it wants to force people to fund their own retirement with private pension funds, but what we know is that only the rich will be able to benefit from such a setup,” said Françoise Onic, a teacher, in an interview with Reuters.
“The meaning of this action is quite simple,” stated Jerome Schmitt, a union spokesman, to CNN affiliate BFM-TV. “We went to the headquarters of BlackRock to tell them: the money of workers, for our pensions, they are taking it.”
BlackRock is one of the world's largest retirement and pension management companies. Protesters, including labor union representatives, criticized the government for pushing people towards private pension funds, arguing that only the rich would benefit from such a system.
Amid aggressive protests, police have deployed tear gas and attempted to mitigate more violent demonstrations. Pension reforms have also increased the retirement age for workers in labor-intensive sectors from 57 to 59 years old, resulting in sanitation workers going on strike and causing tons of trash to accumulate in the streets of Paris.
The French Constitutional Council will issue a ruling on the validity of the reforms next week. The United Nations has called on governments to increase retirement ages and invest in healthcare and education to enable older people to be more self-reliant and economically productive.