Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 29 January 2020

France rocked by second day of strikes against Macron’s pension reforms

Public sector workers are most impacted by the president’s new measures

Unions across France have launched nationwide strikes and protests over the government's plan to overhaul the retirement system. Banner reads: 'Beat Macron in retreat' . AP Photo/David Vincent
Unions across France have launched nationwide strikes and protests over the government's plan to overhaul the retirement system. Banner reads: 'Beat Macron in retreat' . AP Photo/David Vincent

France was hit with a second day of major disruption as public sector workers opposed to President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms continued their nationwide strikes.

Hospitals, public transport and schools have been affected by the walkouts.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled as employees at airlines including Air France, EasyJet and Ryanair went on strike on Friday. Railway operator SNCF said about 90 per cent of its high-speed TGV trains were cancelled. The Parisian metro network remained mainly closed, only operating two of its 16 metro lines.

Traffic jams spanning more than 350 kilometres were reported on major roads around Paris on Friday morning, as people sought alternatives to public transport.

The prospect of fuel shortages also loomed as several union workers blocked seven of the country’s eight oil refineries.

"We're going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it's the government that's going to back down," 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos told Reuters.

More than 800,000 people took to the streets on Thursday, the French government said, in what were the country’s largest strikes in decades. Tear gas was used by police and arrests were made, as thousands of union members marched through the centre of the French capital.

Unions have called for further mass demonstrations on Tuesday, though government officials said will re-open discussions with the unions on Monday.

French workers are angry at the new pension reforms, which would see them retire later or face reduced payment.

The European country has a complex pension system, with 42 different schemes across both private and public sectors, which vary in retirement age and benefits. Mr Macron wants to create a unified system to combat inconsistencies.

Pension benefits in France are mainly calculated using the employee’s 25 highest-payed years in the private sector, while in the public sector, it’s based on payments made in the six months leading up to retirement.

Instead, the president plans to reward employees for each day worked, so that people can earn points that would be later transferred into pension benefits. The move would get rid of the most advantageous pensions for a number of jobs, including lawyers and sailors, and those retiring before 64 will receive a lower pension.

The retirement age in France is 62, one of the lowest among OECD countries.

The government has been negotiating with unions and workers for months over the controversial new pension plans, but full details are not expected until next week.

Updated: December 6, 2019 08:21 PM

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