The country woke up paralyzed. There are no train services, planes or schools. The pension reform seeks to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

France faces on Thursday a day of strike and demonstrations in various parts of the country, the most recent protests against Emmanuel Macron’s provisional reform project, which seeks increase the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The workers of many French cities they took to the streets to reject the proposed pension changes.

Demonstrations gathered thousands of people in the cities of Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes, Lyon, and other places as strikes severely disrupted transportation, schools, and other public services across the country.

In addition to the strikes, it is expected that there will be at least 200 marches in France, including a massive one in Paris in which all the main guilds will participate. In addition to taking to the streets, the protesters are also interrupting the service of high-speed trains and causing power outages in various sectors.

Most trains in France were cancelled, including some international connections, according to rail authority SNCF. Around the 20% of flights departing from Parisian Orly airport they were also canceled,and airlines warn of delays.

Police unions join

Police unions opposed to pension reform also participated, while those on duty were ready for possible acts of violence if extremist groups join the demonstrations.

Employees of the electricity sector pledged to reduce the electricity supply as a form of protest, while close to 70% of the preschool and elementary school teachers they said they would refuse to work on Thursday.

High school student unions planned to join in and cut off access to some schools.

“It’s a first day and there will be others”stressed the general secretary of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), Philippe Martínez, who in an interview with the Public Sénat channel, stressed that “it is rare that the unions in France agree.”

“It’s an indicator that the situation is serious“, complete.

Martínez recalled that all the plants agree to reject what is the central axis of the reform, the delay of the minimum retirement age from the current 62 years to 64, as well as the advancement to 2027 of a change that was already planned in another previous reform, the increase in the period of contributions from 42 to 43 years in order to receive a full pension.

For the Macron government, the reform is the only way to make the system remains solvent in a country like Francewith a aging population in which all receive a state pension.

For the unions, for their part, the reform is a removal of a right that was fiercely disputed. Instead, they propose to implement a tax on millionaires, or increase the contribution made by employers to the pension system.

Polls show that a majority of the population opposes the reform.

The French Labor Minister, Olivier Dussopt, acknowledged the “concerns” raised by the pension reform, which will require workers “an additional effort.”

He asked the strikers not to disrupt the country’s economy. “The right to strike is a freedom, but we don’t want cuts“, he said in statements to LCI television.

A fight of more than 30 years

In the last decades, the attempts to modify the pension system –as life expectancy progresses– have stood up to the unions.

In 1993, the center-right government of Prime Minister Edouard Balladur increased from 37.5 to 40 years the number of years of contributions required to get a full pension in the private sector.

His government also modified the method of calculating pensions, basing them on the 25 best paid years of the worker, instead of 10 as before.

The plan, which dodged the sensitive issue of public sector pensions, generated little resistance.

In November 1995, France was paralyzed by attempts by center-right Prime Minister Alain Juppé to impose in the public sector the requirement of 40 years private listing.

The unions called a general strike that paralyzed the train and metro services for three weeks. Public opinion rallied massively to the strikers and forced the government to back down.

Eight years later, more than a million people took to the streets as center-right Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin unveiled his plans for officials to work 40 years to get a full pension and all will progressively reach 42 years of contributions.

Raffarin refused to budge, and after weeks of demonstrations and strikes, Parliament passed the bill.

Source: AP, AFP and EFE

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