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French strikers say ‘non’ to Macron’s pension reform By Reuters


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© Reuters. SNCF Specific Regional (TER) trains are seen on the Saint-Lazare practice station in Paris on the eve of a nationwide day of strike and protests in key sectors like power, public transport, air journey and colleges in opposition to the pension reform, France, January 1

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By Noemie Olive and Juliette Jabkhiro

PARIS (Reuters) -French staff went on strike and joined marches throughout the nation on Thursday, halting trains and reducing electrical energy manufacturing in protest in opposition to authorities plans to lift the retirement age by two years to 64.

The stoppages are a serious take a look at for President Emmanuel Macron, who says his pension reform plan, which opinion polls present is massively unpopular, is significant to make sure the system doesn’t go bust.

“It is salaries and pensions that should be elevated, not the retirement age,” learn one massive banner carried by staff that opened the protest march in Excursions, in western France.

“I will have to arrange my strolling body if the reform goes via,” mentioned Isabelle, 53, a social employee, saying her job was too powerful so as to add two extra years.

In Good, in southern France, a big banner learn: “No to the reform.”

Pushing again the retirement age by two years and lengthening the pay-in interval would convey a further 17.7 billion euros ($19.1 billion) in annual pension contributions, permitting the system to interrupt even by 2027, based on Labour Ministry estimates.

“This reform is critical and truthful,” Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt informed LCI TV.

Unions argue there are different methods to make sure the viability of the pension system equivalent to taxing the super-rich or growing employers’ contributions or these of well-off pensioners.

“This downside could be solved differently, via taxation. Staff mustn’t must pay for the general public sector deficit,” mentioned Laurent Berger, the chief of CFDT, France’s largest labour union.

On the similar Paris protest rally, Michel Liger, a 65-year-old retired firefighter, mentioned he was there as a result of he frightened about his two daughters.

“My youngsters should not must work longer than me,” he mentioned, including that the federal government ought to as a substitute sort out what he known as “actual issues” together with the healthcare sector.

The problem for the unions is to rework opposition to the reform – and anger over a cost-of-living disaster – right into a mass social protest which may ultimately pressure the federal government to alter tack.

Union leaders, anticipated to announce extra strikes and protests within the night, mentioned Thursday was just the start.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE

The pension reform nonetheless must undergo parliament, the place Macron has misplaced his absolute majority however is hoping to get it handed with the help of conservatives.

Practice drivers, academics and refinery staff had been amongst those that walked off their jobs, in addition to almost 45% of workers at utility big EDF (EPA:), the corporate mentioned. France Inter radio performed music as a substitute of its normal programming and bus drivers and civil servants additionally went on strike.

Solely between one-in-three and one-in-five high-speed TGV strains had been working, with barely any native or regional trains working, the SNCF rail operator mentioned.

In Paris, some metro stations had been closed and site visitors was critically disrupted, with few trains working.

Within the busy Gare du Nord station, folks rushed to catch the few trains nonetheless working whereas staff in yellow vests had been helping frazzled commuters.

Restaurant employee Beverly Gahinet, who missed work as a result of her practice was cancelled, mentioned she agreed with the strike even when she was not participating.

However not all had been so understanding.

“I do not perceive, it is all the time the identical (folks) who’re on strike … and we’ve got to endure it,” mentioned actual property employee Virginie Pinto, as she struggled to discover a metro to go to work.

A 2007 ban on wildcat walkouts and restrictions on strikes to ensure minimal public providers have restricted unions’ capacity to put on down governments’ reform ambitions.

The truth that working from house is way more widespread now for the reason that pandemic may additionally have an effect.

Some seven out of 10 main college academics stopped work, and almost as many in excessive colleges, their unions mentioned, although the Training Ministry gave a lot decrease figures.

In Paris, college students blockaded no less than one highschool in help of the strike motion.

EDF and grid operator RTE knowledge confirmed electrical energy manufacturing was down by roughly 12% of whole energy provide, prompting France to lift imports.

Shipments had been blocked at TotalEnergies’ refineries in France, union and firm officers mentioned, however the firm mentioned one strike day wouldn’t disrupt refinery operations.

The impression on air site visitors was largely restricted to a discount of about 20% of flights in Orly, Paris’ second-biggest airport. Air France mentioned it was working all its long-haul flights and 90% of different flights.

Macron and several other of his ministers in the meantime had been in Barcelona on Thursday for a gathering with Spanish officers.



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