Thousands protest in France
Hundreds of thousands marched in street demonstrations across France after labour unions unanimously called for protests against government plans to raise the retirement age
Hundreds of thousands went on strike and joined marches across France, halting trains, disrupting schooling and cutting electricity production in a trial for the government as workers oppose a deeply unpopular pensions overhaul.
The changes presented by President Emmanuel Macron’s government would raise the retirement age for most people to 64 from 62 and increase the years of contributions required for a full pension.
France’s trade unions immediately called for a mass mobilisation, showing a united front for the first time in 12 years when the retirement age was hiked to 62 from 60.
France’s Interior Ministry said it had counted 1.12 million demonstrators in France as a whole including 80,000 in Paris. The hardline CGT union said two million people had marched throughout the country, and 400,000 in Paris.
Around the Bastille area of Paris, radical demonstrators hurled bottles, bins and smoke grenades at police who responded with tear gas and charged to disperse the troublemakers.
Some thirty people were arrested, mostly members of a 1,000-strong radical group called ‘Black Blocs’ who wore masks, helmets and black clothes, police said, adding they had managed to split off the group from the main demonstration.
The strikes brought much of the capital’s public transport to a standstill and halted a large proportion of trains throughout France. One of the capital’s metro lines was closed completely, with another 12 ‘very disrupted’, Paris transport operator RATP said.
The rate of strikers reached 46.3 percent of workers at the state-owned national rail company SNCF.
The Education Ministry said 42.35 percent of teachers in primary education were striking, and 34.66 percent in secondary education. Estimates from teachers’ unions placed those numbers between 65 and 70 percent.
Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT, said that the planned pension reform ‘bundles together everyone’s dissatisfaction’ with the government and that the rare united front among worker representatives showed ‘the problem is very serious’.
Based on the materials of www.lemonde.fr