French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe convened with senior cabinet ministers late on Sunday to press ahead with the government’s proposed pensions reforms despite four days of running protests that have crippled the country’s public transport.
The country’s labor unions, who claim the reforms will force many to work longer for a smaller retirement payout, began their protest on Thursday, and the mass strike stranded commuters, closed some schools and hit tourism in Paris and elsewhere.
Macron, a former investment banker, argues that the retirement overhaul will make a convoluted, out-dated pension system more fair and financially sustainable, uniting 42 different plans into one.
The government says it won’t change the official retirement age of 62, but the new plan is expected to include financial conditions to encourage people to work longer as lifespans lengthen.
The new retirement plan will affect all French workers but the strikes involve primarily public sector workers, including train drivers, teachers and hospital employees.
Jean-Paul Delevoye, Macron’s coordinator for the pension reforms, is set to unveil the outcome of months-long consultations on Monday, followed by final details of the plan to be announced on Wednesday.
On the first day, some 800,000 people took to the streets in protest at the plan to introduce a single, points-based pension scheme for workers in all economic sectors.
Sunday saw more travel chaos, with most French trains at a standstill. Fourteen of Paris’ subway lines were closed, with only two lines, using automated trains with no drivers, functioning. International train routes also suffered disruptions.
The three main rail unions calling for the action to be stepped up ahead of another general strike and mass protests called for Tuesday.
“In the coming days, we recommend avoiding public transport,” said the website of the RATP public train, tram, bus and metro company used daily by some 10 million people in larger Paris to get to work.
Yellow vest activists joined the protests Saturday, adding retirement reform to their list of economic grievances in protests around the country. Police fired tear gas on rowdy protesters at largely peaceful marches through Paris and the western city of Nantes.
bk/bw (AFP, AP)