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Nationwide Strikes in France Over Plan to Raise Pension Age to 64

Nationwide Strikes in France Over Plan to Raise Pension Age to 64 – Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched in France on Tuesday, as rail workers and refinery employees launched rolling strikes and trade unions intensified their efforts to stop Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64.

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At the beginning of the year, trade unions called for a nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations six times. Authorities and local media reported that many protest gatherings drew larger audiences than those organized since mid-January, particularly in Marseille, one of France’s largest cities. “The idea is to bring France to a standstill,” said Fabrice Michaud of the railway workers’ branch of the CGT trade union.

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Rail unions have called for rolling, indefinite strikes that may impact all national and international trains, including the Eurostar. Garbage collectors and truck drivers participated in the action. A union source told AFP that by lunchtime, around 39% of SNCF employees were on strike, the biggest percentage since the first action against pension changes on January 19.

Local urban buses and subway trains in large cities were impacted, as were airlines, with up to 30 percent of flights canceled on Tuesday and Wednesday as a result of a strike by air traffic controllers. As a result of a one-day teachers’ strike, approximately 24% of public sector employees stopped working and several schools closed. 

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Besides that, refinery and energy employees participated in strikes. The CGT union said that fuel deliveries from refineries across France were halted as of Tuesday morning, which might lead to gas station shortages if protests continue.

“The government has to take this resistance into account when there are so many people in the street, when the government is having so much trouble explaining and passing their reform,” Laurent Berger, the head of the moderate CFDT union, said at a Paris demonstration.

The French senate is debating Macron’s proposals to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and increase the number of years of employment required to collect a full pension. Macron has been significantly weakened on the home front as a result of his centrist group’s failure to secure an absolute majority in June’s parliamentary elections in the face of gains by the  far right and radical left.

Without a majority, the government must rely on the rightwing Les Républicains to support pension changes, despite the fact that its senators and representatives are pushing for modifications. The discussions are anticipated to conclude around the end of March.

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A committee composed of members from both houses of parliament is scheduled to seek a probable agreement on a joint version of the text, which will ultimately be presented for approval to the national assembly and subsequently the senate.

Nonetheless, disagreements persist regarding the level of assistance. The administration is determined to proceed with the pension adjustments, and its spokesperson stated that there are more pressing concerns affecting the country, such as the cost of living crisis, than the strikes.

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