France Braced for Huge Disruption As Transport Workers Start Rolling Strikes

France Braced for Huge Disruption As Transport Workers Start Rolling Strikes

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – France is facing street protests and heavy disruption on Tuesday as transport workers and refinery staff begin rolling strikes over Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the pension age to 64.

For the sixth time since the start of the year, unions have called a nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations, aiming to repeat the large turnout seen on the first major protest, on 19 January, when more than a million people marched against the pension changes, The Guardian reported.

The disruption is expected to be greater and last longer as rail unions called for rolling, open-ended strikes, which could affect all national trains as well as international routes including the Eurostar.

Local urban buses and subway trains in large cities will also be affected. Airlines will be hit, with up to 30% of flights cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday as air traffic controllers strike. Road hauliers could stage go-slows and block routes into major cities. Deliveries to supermarkets and businesses are likely to be disrupted.

“The idea is to bring France to a standstill,” said Fabrice Michaud, of the railway workers’ branch of the CGT trade union.

The transport minister, Clement Beaune, told France 3 TV station it would be “one of the most difficult” strike days for travelers since the start of the protests.

Some students, including at Rennes 2 University in Brittany, began blockading faculties on Monday night. School closures are expected on Tuesday as some teachers in primary and secondary schools stage a one-day strike. Bin collections could also be affected in several cities as workers strike.

Macron’s proposals to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and increase the number of years of work required to claim a full pension are being debated in the French senate.

The president has been left severely undermined on the domestic front after his centrist grouping failed to win an absolute majority in parliamentary elections last June amid gains for the far right and radical left.

Without a majority, the government must rely on the rightwing Les Republicains to back pensions changes, but their senators and lawmakers are pressing for alterations.

Discussions are forecast to end by the end of March. It is expected that a committee made up of legislators from both houses of parliament will seek a potential deal on a joint version of the text, to eventually be presented for approval at the national assembly and then the senate. But tensions remain as to the level of support.

The government is determined to press on with the pensions changes, and its spokesperson said there were more pressing issues facing the country than the strikes, such as the cost of living crisis.

An Ifpo poll for the Sunday paper Le Journal de Dimanche found that only 32% of French people supported Macron’s pension changes.

Laurent Berger, the head of the moderate CFDT trade union, criticized Macron for not meeting trade union leaders. He said the president must listen to the French people. “He can’t stay silent like he has for the past two months,” Berger said.

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