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France shuts down as thousands protest against pension overhaul

A demonstration against the government's pensions reform plan in Paris on Thursday, December 5, 2019.

A demonstration against the government's pensions reform plan in Paris on Thursday, December 5, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Union leaders have vowed to keep up their protest until President Emmanuel Macron drops the decision.

A nationwide strike brought much of France to a standstill on Thursday as tens of thousands hit the streets to protest a pension overhaul by President Emmanuel Macron, which unions say will force millions of people to work longer or face curtailed benefits.

Thousands of people marched in several cities ahead of two major demonstrations planned for Paris, where traffic was lighter than usual as many people simply took the day off to avoid the travel chaos. Although the Paris march began peacefully, black-clad protesters later set fire to a storage trailer and broke storefront windows, prompting police to fire tear gas to try to halt the vandalism.

Police also fired tear gas in the western city of Nantes, where some protesters scuffled with firefighters and security forces.

Most schools were closed or only assuring daycare services.

Union leaders have vowed to keep up their protest unless Mr. Macron drops the pension overhaul, considered a centre piece of the centrist President’s push to reform wide swathes of the French economy.

“This is going to concern everybody, not just part of the population,” said Franck, a 46-year-old worker at the automaker PSA, during a demonstration in Rennes. “Nobody can imagine having to work until you’re 70 years old,” he said.

Officials have admitted that French workers will gradually have to work longer, but so far have given few details of how a “universal” system that does away with dozens of separate schemes will affect their retirement plans.

Around 90% of high-speed TGV trains and regional lines were cancelled, and Air France has axed 30% of domestic flights and 15% of short-haul global routes. The CGT union said workers had blocked seven of the country’s eight oil refineries, raising the prospect of fuel shortages if the strike continues.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 6:46:21 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/france-shuts-down-as-thousands-protest-against-pension-overhaul/article30196069.ece

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