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Public Utilities Grinding To A Halt As Over 800,000 French Workers Took To The Street To Protest Pension Reforms

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Activities are grinding to a halt in France since workers began strike action entered the second day today as the largest nationwide strike in years continues.

More than 800,000 people took to the streets on Thursday, with violent clashes reported in a number of cities.

Widespread rail cancellations and disruption to flights are expected on Friday with only a fraction of the capital’s transport system working.

Paris’s bus and metro operator have said their walkout will last until Monday at least.

Other unions are expected to decide on Friday about their further strike plans, Reuters reports. Widespread travel disruption is expected to continue in France on Friday Workers from a wide range of sectors are protesting against pension reforms.

Many French workers are angry about President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to introduce a universal points-based pension scheme.

It would replace France’s current system which has 42 different pension schemes across its private and public sectors with variations in retirement age and benefits.

French police said more than 800,000 took to the streets across the country, including 65,000 in Paris.

Union leaders put the numbers higher, with the CGT union claiming 1.5m people turned out across France.

The disruption meant popular tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower, were closed for the day and usually busy transport hubs like the Gare du Nord were unusually quiet.

The Macron administration will hope to avoid a repeat of the country’s general strike over pension reforms in 1995, which crippled the transport system for three weeks and drew massive popular support, forcing a government climb-down.

Mr Macron’s unified system – which he says would be fairer – would reward employees for each day worked, awarding points that would later be transferred into future pension benefits.

The official retirement age has been raised in the last decade from 60 to 62, but remains one of the lowest among the OECD group of rich nations – in the UK, for example, the retirement age for state pensions is 66 and is due to rise to at least 67.

The move would remove the most advantageous pensions for a number of jobs and unions fear the new system will mean some will have to work longer for a lower pension.

 

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