Bakers at the center of a new battle between the government and the opposition

Fight around the stick. Many bakers have denounced unprecedented increases in energy bills in recent weeks, threatening them with bankruptcy. The government announced support measures earlier in the week to quell the anger, while Emmanuel Macron will host several artists this Thursday at the Elysee for the traditional galette des rois ceremony. But the opposition, led by the National Rally, accuses the government of “allowing the profession to die.”

Mobilization in Paris at the end of January

These artisans, who have been affected by the price of oil or flour for several months, are now being hit hard by the explosion of gas and electricity bills, sometimes increasing tenfold since the autumn. On December 3, several bakers, like Julien Bernard-Regnard, were forced to close shop in Bourgaltroff (Moselle). The latter claims to have seen its monthly electricity bill from TotalEnergies rise from around €400 to €1,500. “It was light years away from thinking that an energy bill could put me out of business and end my life here. There are bakeries that close every day,” he said.

According to their confederation, 80% of them are not eligible for the tariff shield, and for many, government-imposed support measures – such as the electricity bill help desk or “electricity buffer” – are. insufficient. Calls for help, which have increased in the media, have also spread widely on social networks. Several collectives also announced that they will participate in the big demonstration to be organized in Paris on January 23.

The government is trying to react

The government went to the front all week to clear the land. On Tuesday, Elisabeth Borne announced that SMEs (and in particular the 33,000 bakers in France) could “request the postponement of the payment of taxes and social security contributions” to ease cash flow. The Prime Minister also wants small traders to be able to spread the payment of bills. At the same time, Bruno Le Maire put pressure on energy suppliers to allow bakers to renegotiate their contracts with impunity.

“The government continues to provide assistance and protection as we have always done in this energy and inflation crisis,” argued Priscia Thevenot, deputy for Hauts-de-Seine. This aid package will cover “up to 40%” of bills, according to the executive branch. “The problem is that very few companies that are eligible for assistance claim it,” the Renaissance spokesperson continued. Navigating this stressful context is sometimes difficult. That’s why we have to continue pedagogy.” The Minister of Economy, moreover, reminded that “several hundred bakers are in real trouble”, removing the hypothesis of an explosion of bankruptcies.

The greed of the bakers was the opposition

But the executive power has been severely criticized by the opposition. “With the effects of the announcement, the government did not consider the gravity of the situation. “Emmanuel Macron cannot be happy about the baguette being included in the UNESCO heritage list and at the same time he cannot allow our bakers to die,” says Gilles Pennelle, CEO of National Rally. Very active, the RN wants to turn this crisis into a “symbol” of the expected cut of the Macronists. President Jordan Bardella, who will travel to the Marne this Thursday on the subject, sent a letter to the bakers on Twitter on Tuesday, specifically to defend the exit from the European energy market.

But in the last hours, the left and the right have become stronger. “The disconnection is a sign of this government! They don’t know how to wait, how to be deaf, and how to leave the French in pain.” Hauts-de-France company president Xavier Bertrand wrote about it on Twitter.

In the context of inflation, this struggle around bakeries is no less. Politicians are well aware that they occupy a very special place in French society and can sometimes become a relay of ideas. Bruno Le Maire himself recognized this in a daily program on TMC on Monday. “The baker is our daily life. It is the only local store in municipalities with 200, 250, 600 inhabitants. »

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