Strikes, protests as French unions seek momentum to halt pension reform

 

 

 

 

French trade unions crippled transport and gathered for mass protests on Tuesday, in a redoubled effort to force President Emmanuel Macron to ditch a planned pension reform by Christmas.

Nationwide movement of rolling strikes and protests having started to tail off as it enters a second week, unions were hoping for a new jolt to regain momentum by bringing hundreds of thousands of demonstrators back out onto the street.

Former investment banker Macron has said he wants to streamline the Byzantine state pension system with its tangle of special privileges, and use incentives to prod people to work until 64, instead of the average retirement age now of 62.

Eight of Paris’ 14 metro lines were closed and the rest had a limited service, apart from two lines that run automated trains. Suburban commuter trains were heavily disrupted. Roads were thick with pedestrians and the streets crammed with bicycles and electric scooters as people tried to get to work.

The unions and Macron are each hoping to push the other to back down before Christmas, with the prospect that continuing strikes over the holiday would alienate an increasingly frustrated public