Paris was overwhelmed by more than 5,000 tonnes of rubbish as garbage collectors went on strike for a ninth straight day.
The French capital has felt the unease of the overflowing bins, black bags, boxes, empty boxes and rotting smells that permeate its streets.
The mess follows discontent and protests over President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the general retirement age from 62 to 64, and from 57 to 59 for sanitation workers.
Mr Macron pushed the pension reform bill through parliament and it is expected to come to a head despite strong opposition.
Other French cities have also fallen victim to uncollected rubbish, but the Parisian capital has understandably been in the spotlight and scrutinized by district mayors and the public.
Tourist Nadiia Turkay said ‘it’s a bit too much because some streets were even hard to navigate’ but sympathized with the strikers, saying it was ‘for a good cause’.
Even the strikers themselves, who include garbage collectors, street cleaners and underground sewer workers, have expressed concern that Paris will deteriorate without their services.
“It makes me sick,” said Gursel Durnaz, who protested for nine days. “There’s trash everywhere, stuff everywhere. People can’t get through. We’re fully aware.
“Paris will be clean in three days provided that Mr. Macron withdraws his plan to increase the retirement age by two years.”
While some of the garbage was taken away early Tuesday morning by a private company, according to television channel BFMTV, heaps remain near the Paris Senate, the Eiffel Tower and the Elysee Palace.
“We are among the invisible”
Jamal Ouchen, a street sweeper from Paris, said: “What makes France go round are the invisible jobs. … Unfortunately, we are among the invisible.”
He added that politicians “wouldn’t last a day” if they swapped places with them to learn how the city is kept clean.
Frédéric Aubisse, sewer worker, is at the forefront of the mobilization against the pension system and declares: “Mr. Macron wants us to die at work”.
Wednesday is a key day for strikers and the French government, as protesters plan their eighth nationwide march since January.
Simultaneously, a closed-door meeting will take place to make a decision on the controversial bill – with a deciding vote possibly following on Thursday.
But Mr Aubisse said “nothing is set in stone”, citing a 2006 law to promote youth employment that was quickly repealed after mass protests.
He added that if the same thing happens with the pension reform “things will happen…for sure”.