Protests in France over plans to raise the retirement age

Paris [France], January 20 (ANI): Protests in major French cities on Thursday (local time) over plans to raise retirement age brought transport, schools and businesses to a standstill, reported CNN.

More than one million people protested against the government’s plans to raise the retirement age for most workers.

Protests in major French cities, including Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes and Nice disrupted train services, flights, schools and businesses across the country. The Eiffel Tower was closed to visitors, reported CNN.

France’s Interior Ministry said more than a million people took to the streets across the country, including 80,000 in Paris, where small groups of demonstrators threw bottles, rocks and fireworks at riot police.

Eight of the biggest unions had called for a “first day of strikes and protests” against pension reforms unveiled by President Emmanuel Macron’s government, reported CNN.

The legislation will require French citizens to work until 64, from 62 currently, to qualify for a full state pension.

The French government has said this is necessary to tackle a pension funding deficit, but the reforms have angered workers at a time when living costs are rising.

Macron’s proposed pension reforms come as workers in France, as elsewhere, are being squeezed by rising food and energy bills, reported CNN.

France spent nearly 14 per cent of its GDP on state pensions in 2018, which is more than most other countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Teachers and transport workers were among those who did not report for work. More than 40 per cent of primary school teachers and more than one-third of high school teachers went on strike, according to France’s education ministry.

Train lines across France saw “severe disruption,” according to French rail authority SNCF, and full or partial closures hit metro lines in Paris, the city transport authority RATP said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, according to its website, Eurostar cancelled several services between the French capital and London, and some flights at Orly airport were scratched.

Charles de Gaulle airport reported “a few delays” due to striking air traffic controllers, but no cancellations reported CNN.

CGT, one of France’s major confederation of trade unions, estimated that two million people took part in more than 200 protest events across the country, and said that the majority of refinery workers at TotalEnergies (TOT) walked out, interrupting deliveries of oil products. TotalEnergies (TOT) said that fuel supplies at its network of gas stations would not be affected.

Overhauling pensions has long been a controversial issue in France, with street protests halting reform efforts in 1995, and successive governments facing stiff resistance to changes that eventually passed in 2004, 2008 and 2010.

An earlier attempt by Macron to revamp France’s pensions system was met with nationwide strikes in 2019 before being abandoned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

French unions are due to meet Thursday evening to decide on whether strike action should continue, reported CNN. (ANI)