French strikers hold pressure to reject pension plan

PARIS – French train and metro drivers, refinery workers, garbage collectors and others staged further strikes on Wednesday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 in a bid to keep pressure on the government amid the ongoing parliamentary debate.

New protests focused on women – and the impact of pension reform on working mothers – are expected to coincide with International Women’s Day on Wednesday. Feminist activists see pension reform as unfair to women, particularly because they say it would further deepen the gender inequalities they have faced throughout their careers.

The ongoing strikes and protests come after that More than a million protesters marched in towns and cities across France on Tuesday in what unions see as the biggest show of force against the proposed changes since the movement began in January.

The unions are calling for the reform to be withdrawn. The bill is will be discussed in the Senate this week.

Train traffic and the Paris subway remained severely disrupted on Wednesday morning.

The SNCF railway authority said only one in three high-speed trains is expected to run across the country. Trains to Spain have come to a standstill with some cancellations affecting those to and from the UK and Belgium.

A fifth of flights were canceled at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and around a third at Orly Airport.

According to the CGT union, oil supplies to the country have been halted for the second day in a row due to strikes at the TotalEnergies and Esso ExxonMobil refineries.

Garbage collection in Paris also decided to continue the strike on Wednesday.

In addition, striking workers blocked access to ports in the western cities of Rouen and Le Havre.

Macron has vowed to push the law forward, which he presents as key to his pro-business economic policies.

The reform would raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, among other measures, and would require 43 years of work to receive a full pension. The government argues that the system is likely to slide into deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy increases.

Left-wing legislators are demanding that companies and the wealthy should contribute more to the financing of the pension system.

Unions have called for a new day of nationwide demonstrations on Saturday.

On Thursday, youth organizations representing students who haven’t even entered the labor market are trying to mobilize young people to take to the streets to raise concerns about pension rights.

While the measure has a good chance of eventual Senate approval, unions are hoping that strikes and protests will force the government to make concessions as the bill continues to make its way through the complex legislative process.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. French strikers hold pressure to reject pension plan

Sarah Y. Kim

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