France strikes: workers go out in mass protests against plans to raise the retirement age

Paris / London

Strikes disrupted train services, flights, schools and businesses in France on Thursday as trade unions He led massive protests against the government’s plans Raising the retirement age to most workers.

Protests in major French cities, including Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes and Nice, halted transport services on Thursday. The Eiffel Tower was closed to visitors, and the country’s power grid was also under strain.

Eight of the largest unions have called for “the first day of strikes and protests” against pension reforms unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron’s government. The legislation would require French citizens to work until 64, from 62 currently, to qualify for a full state pension.

Philippe Martinez, general secretary of France’s largest CGT union, told reporters that he expected the total number of protesters to exceed one million.

Train lines across France were experiencing “severe disruption”, according to French railways authority SNCF. The city’s transport authority said on Twitter that metro lines in Paris had been completely or partially closed.

Meanwhile, Eurostar has canceled several flights between the French capital and London, according to its website, and flights have been scratched at Paris’ Orly airport. Charles de Gaulle in Paris reported “some delays” due to the air traffic controllers’ strike, but no cancellation.

CGT, which has recorded more than 200 protest events across the country, said the majority of TotalEnergies’ refinery workers

They withdrew, stopping shipments of petroleum products. Total energy

He said that the fuel supply in the network of gas stations will not be affected.

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More than 40% of primary school teachers and more than a third of secondary school teachers are on strike, according to the French Ministry of Education.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told French radio station RTL on Wednesday that more than 10,000 police and military personnel will be deployed to the protests, including 3,500 officers stationed in Paris.

Macron’s proposed pension reforms come as workers in France, as elsewhere, are under pressure from rising food and energy bills. Nurses and ambulance drivers in the UK also went on strike on Thursday over pay and working conditions.

Thousands participated in Mass demonstrations In the streets of Paris last year to protest the high cost of living, and caused strikes by workers to demand higher wages Dry running fuel pumps across the country a few months ago.

This overhaul comes at a time of a lot of anger, a lot of frustration, and a lot of burnout. CFE-CGC union president Francois Humrell told CNN on Tuesday, referring to Inflation hit Europe this year After the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The French government has said that raising the retirement age is necessary to address the shortfall in financing pensions. France spent nearly 14% of GDP on state pensions in 2018, which is more than most other countries, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Wooden pallets are burning, as protesters gather during a rally called by French trade unions outside the Gare de Lyon, in Paris on January 19, 2023.

Government spokesman Olivier Ferrand told reporters Wednesday that 40% of French workers would be able to retire before the age of 64 under the proposed system because of exceptions for those who started work early or who have physically taxing jobs.

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“We have the most advanced security system in Europe [for pensions]”,” He said. “Even after the reforms, we will retire in France better off and earlier than in almost all countries of the eurozone,” he added.

In Europe and in many other developed economies, the age for full pension entitlement is 65 and is increasingly moving towards 67.

Pension reform has long been a contentious issue in France, with street protests halting reform efforts in 1995, and Successive governments face stiff resistance For changes that finally passed in 2004, 2008, and 2010.

An earlier attempt by Macron to reform France’s pension system was met with retaliation National strikes in 2019 Before it was abandoned due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is scheduled to meet the French unions Thursday evening to decide on the continuation of the strike.

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