French train and metro drivers, refinery workers, garbage collectors and others were on further strike on Wednesday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64, in efforts to keep the pressure on the government amid ongoing parliamentary debate.
New protest actions focused on women – and the impact of retirement reform on working mothers – were expected to coincide with International Women’s Day on Wednesday. Feminist activists view pension reform as unfair to women, particularly because they say it will deepen gender inequalities they have come to know during their careers.
A march called by women’s rights groups was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Paris.
The strike and protests continued after more than a million demonstrators marched in cities and towns across France on Tuesday in the biggest show of force against the planned changes since the start of the movement in January.
The unions demand the withdrawal of the reform. The bill is being debated in the Senate this week.
Fifth day of nationwide protests halted in France over pension reform
French government spokesman Olivier Veran said on Wednesday, “We know that the necessary efforts from the French do not garner the support of a majority.” “But we are convinced that the alternatives – raising taxes, increasing (state) debt, reducing pensions – will not win much support of public opinion.”
Opinion polls consistently suggest that a majority of French voters oppose the pension plan.
Veran expected Section 7 of the bill, which focuses on raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, would be adopted by the Senate later on Wednesday. Talks in the upper house of parliament are set to last until the end of the week.
On Wednesday morning, train traffic and the Paris Metro were severely disrupted.
The SNCF rail authority said only one in three high-speed trains is expected to run across the country. Trains to Spain have been halted and some cancellations affect trains to and from the UK and Belgium.
A fifth of flights at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport and nearly a third at Orly airport have been cancelled.
French protesters take to the streets for a nationwide protest against the government’s pension reform plans
Oil shipments into the country were halted for the second day in a row due to strikes at TotalEnergies and Esso ExxonMobil refineries, according to the CGT union.
The waste pickers of Paris have also decided to continue the strike on Wednesday.
In addition, striking workers were blocking access to the southern city of Marseille and to ports in Rouen and Le Havre in the west.
Macron has vowed to press ahead with the bill, which he presents as key to his pro-business economic policies.
The reform will raise the minimum pension age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work to earn a full pension, among other measures. The government argues that the system is expected to dive into losses within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancies lengthen.
Left-wing lawmakers say companies and the wealthy should pitch in more to finance the pension system.
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Unions have called for a new day of nationwide demonstrations on Saturday.
On Thursday, youth organizations representing students who have not yet entered the workforce are seeking to mobilize youth to take to the streets to share concerns about retirement rights.
While the measure has a good chance of eventually winning Senate approval, unions hope that strikes and protests force the government to make concessions as the bill continues its way through the complex legislative process.
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