Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 May 2020

Thousands join mass strike over French pension reform

Schools closed as teachers joined rail workers who have been striking for 36 days

Protesters participate in a demonstration against pension reforms in Paris, France. EPA
Protesters participate in a demonstration against pension reforms in Paris, France. EPA

Thousands of people demonstrated across France on Thursday over government plans to reform public sector pensions.

Teachers, doctors and lawyers joined rail workers, who have been striking for 36 days, in what has become a record-breaking public transport walkout.

In Paris, protesters marched from the Republique square in the centre of the city.

Commuters in the capital were hit by the strike on the metro, while the Eiffel Tower was shut.

Schools were closed leading to many parents taking time off work or working from home, having been unable to find day care.

The protests spread to Nantes, Toulouse and Marseille, where unions called for workers to block road access to the port.

Labour leaders have called for the French government to abandon its overhaul of the public pension system. The proposals would see the introduction of a universal points-based system, replacing 42 pre-existing schemes.

One of the main sticking points in the reforms is to push the age of at which workers can take home a full pension upon retirement from 62 to 64.

Talks between the government and unions resumed on Tuesday but have so far failed to reach an agreement.

"Nothing is lost. The ball is in the government's camp. Either they listen, or they govern against the people's will," hardline CGT union boss Philippe Martinez told reporters in Paris. "I am sceptical about the government's willingness to talk."

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due to meet union representatives on Friday but officials are bracing themselves for further weeks of disruption.

Updated: January 9, 2020 08:05 PM

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