French unions gear up for show of force over Macron's pension reforms

Cornelia Mascio
Dicembre 11, 2019

PHOTO: A line of riot policemen block the route of protesters on Sainte-Catherine Street in Bordeaux, south-western France on december 10, 2019, during a demonstration held to protest against proposed pension overhauls.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters including teachers took to the streets across France for the sixth day straight to strike against pension reforms proposed by President Emmanuel Macron. Commuters also used means other than cars to get to work, such as shared bikes and scooters.

On Sunday, the 8th of December 2019, at the fourth day of a nationwide strike against a recently introduced pension reform scheme in France, French Govt. of centre-left President Emmanuel Macron said that the French Govt. would remain determined to execute its planned pension reforms adding that the system would be sensitized gradually given the extent of disapproval the French pension reform bill was met with over the recent past.

Philippe has cautioned there would be "no magic announcements" to halt the protests, which brought 339,000 people out on the streets around France Tuesday and some 800,000 on the first day of the labour action last Thursday, according to official estimates.

Unions fear that a new system, which replaces a national pension system with special privileges for some in the transport sector, will force people to work longer for smaller pension allocations.

Paris police ordered shops and restaurants closed on roads around the gold-domed Invalides monument, fearing violence on the fringes of what government opponents hope is another mass march. The complete draft of the reform is expected to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Demonstrations were also held in other cities, from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Bordeaux, Lyon and Lille.

Nationwide, only about a fifth of French trains ran normally Tuesday, frustrating tourists who found train stations empty and trains cancelled. The Paris region also saw significant traffic jams.

Some commuters used ride-sharing apps or stayed with friends and family near their offices.

"I understand the situation, (retirement reform) concerns us all", he told The Associated Press.

Air France, the national carrier, said more than 25% of its domestic traffic was grounded Tuesday by the strike, along with more than 10% of its medium-range flights, on the orders of the French civil aviation authority.

Overall the number of striking workers is lower than last week, and the strike may fizzle after the government releases long-awaited details of the retirement plan Wednesday.

In Paris, 10% of schools have been closed as the main teachers' trade unions joined in with rail and airport unions to demonstrate on Tuesday.

The government says a minimum pension of 1,000 euros (about $1,100) per month will be put in place for those who have worked all their life.

But he sought to reassure workers in sectors which enjoy earlier retirement or more generous pensions that the changes would be gradual.

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