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, brought a lot to the table Transport services to a standstill. The Eiffel Tower is closed to visitors.

Police fired tear gas during low-level clashes with protesters in Paris, and by 11 a.m. ET they had detailed more than 30 people for questioning, according to CNN affiliate BFMTV.

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.

The French government has said this is necessary to tackle a funding shortfall for pensions, but the reforms have angered workers at a time when the cost of living is soaring.

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

Teachers and transport workers were among those who did not show up for work. The French Ministry of Education said that more than 40% of primary school teachers and more than a third of secondary school teachers have gone on strike.

The city’s transport authority said on Twitter that train lines across France experienced “severe disruption,” according to the French Railways, and metro lines in Paris were damaged by the full or partial lockdown.

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

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

Withdrew, stopping the delivery of petroleum products. Total energy

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

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 reform comes at a time when there is a lot of anger, frustration, and a lot of fatigue. 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.

Speaking to reporters in Spain on Thursday, Macron defended the changes as “fair and responsible”.

He added, “If you want the intergenerational agreement to be fair, then we must move forward with this reform.”

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.

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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 on 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.

“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 retirement benefit 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.

Saskia Vandoorne in Paris and Al Goodman in Barcelona contributed reporting.

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