More strikes against pension reform plans rock France

Protesters react amidst tear gas during clashes at a demonstration against French government's pensions reform plans in Paris as part of a day of national strike and protests in France, December 5, 2019. (REUTERS Photo)

France faced a second day of travel chaos and understaffed schools and hospitals on Friday as unions said there would be no let-up in a strike against Emmanuel Macron's pension reforms until the president backed down.

In France Friday, strikers continued their protest against President Emmanuel Macron's controversial pension plans.

Workers for RATP, the Parisian public transport operator, announced plans to continue striking through Monday, leading to severe more hardship in the capital, according to local media reports.

Airlines were told again on Friday to reduce their flights over France by 20%. This means more cancellations, and all airlines flying in, out, or over France will again be affected.

Rail unions will also continue striking, so the service on SNCF trains will be reduced by 90%, as of Thursday.

Thursday saw one of the biggest strikes in recent French history.

Police, healthcare workers, teachers, lawyers, taxi and freight drivers, postal workers, farmers, civil servants, refinery workers and students took to the streets, according to daily Le Monde.

Among the protesters were employees of national carrier Air France, Parisian public transport operator RATP, power company EDF, public rail operator SNCF, and carmaker Renault.

According to the Interior Ministry, over 800,000 protesters took part in the strike on Thursday, in a country of 70 million.

On Twitter, the Paris Police Department said the police and gendarmerie had carried out some 11,500 checks and arrested 90 people.

Police intervened in the demonstrations, with protesters in Paris setting fire to a cafe, traffic lights, and electric motorcycles.

Proposed reforms

France currently has 42 different pension programs for various sectors, but the government has proposed unifying those systems into a single pension scheme.

Under France's current system, contributions by the working-age population finance pensioners.

However, due to the aging population, fewer people are paying into the current system.

To fix this, the government introduced a point-based system that would compensate workers with pension points for every day they work or every euro they contribute.

The reforms would gradually raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, a move expected to adversely affect many sectors.

Workers would get full pension if they retire at age 64 but if not, they would lose 5% of their pensions for every year they retire early.

The demonstrations and strikes have been supported by numerous labor and police unions, as well as the Yellow Vests.

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