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Pension protests to bring “maximum“ workers in France after government, union talks fail

2023-04-06T04:04:18Z

France braced for a new round of nationwide protests and strikes on Thursday after a meeting between the prime minister and labour unions failed to break a political stalemate over a deeply unpopular pension bill making people work for longer.

Protests against the reform – which lifts the retirement age by two years to 64 – have drawn crowds of hundreds of thousands in rallies organised by unions since January, and at times turned violent.

Labour groups vowed to dig in their heels after talks with Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Wednesday – which lasted just an hour – failed to calm the situation.

They said the only way out of the crisis was for the legislation to be pulled, an option which Borne flatly rejected.

“After this meeting, I am calling for a maximum of workers, men and women, to join the marches across France tomorrow,” Laurent Berger, head of the country’s biggest union CFDT, said on Wednesday.

Thursday’s marches – the 11th day of protests in the past three months – could provide an indication of whether the drawn-out rallies are losing steam or gaining momentum.

The previous day of demonstrations on March 28 drew smaller crowds, according to the Interior Ministry, with 740,000 people protesting across the country compared with a record 1.09 million seen on March 23.

Paris public transport operator RATP predicted traffic would be almost normal on Thursday. Trains are expected to be more heavily disrupted and the civil aviation authority asked airlines to cut flights by 20% in cities like Bordeaux and Marseille, but not at Paris airports like in the past.

Some 20% of primary school teachers are also expected to join the strike, local media quoted the Snuipp-FSU union as saying, down from 30% for March 28.

Strikes are still disrupting operations at oil refineries and nuclear plants, while garbage collectors have vowed to resume their protest from next week.

The latest wave of demonstrations represents the most serious challenge to the authority of President Emmanuel Macron, on a state visit to China, since the “Yellow Vest” revolt four years ago. Polls show a wide majority of French oppose the pension legislation and the government’s decision to push it through parliament without a vote.

Related Galleries:

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and inter-unions representatives pose prior to talks at Hotel de Matignon in Paris, France April 5, 2023 after a pensions reform was pushed through parliament by the French government without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution. Bertrand Guay/Pool via REUTERS

Laurent Berger, French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) union’s general secretary and Sophie Binet, newly elected CGT trade union general secretary, sit prior to talks between Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and inter-unions representatives at Hotel de Matignon in Paris, France April 5, 2023 after a pensions reform was pushed through parliament by the French government without a vote, using the article 49.3 of the constitution. Bertrand Guay/Pool via REUTERS

A banner reading “64, it’s no” is hung by French CGT labour union members to protest against French government’s pension reform, on the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Newly-elected French CGT labour union leader Sophie Binet and Laurent Berger, Secretary General of French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) leave after a meeting on pension reform with French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne at the Hotel Matignon in Paris, France, April 5, 2023. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier

Protesters attend a demonstration during the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests against French government’s pension reform, in Nantes, France, March 23, 2023. The slogan reads “for a boundless democracy” in reference to French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo


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