French Pension Strikes Expand 12/10 06:10
PARIS (AP) -- French airport employees, teachers and other workers joined
nationwide strikes Tuesday as unions cranked up pressure on the government to
scrap upcoming changes to the country's national retirement system.
As the strike entered a sixth straight day, commuters and tourists in Paris
used used apps, shared bikes and creativity to find ways to get to work, school
Many French commuters still express support for the strike, fearing their
own pensions will shrink under President Emmanuel Macron's new plan. But some
admitted their patience is wearing thin with the transportation woes, and with
train workers who are striking to keep their right to retire years earlier than
Paris police ordered shops and restaurants closed on boulevards around the
gold-domed Invalides monument, fearing violence on the fringes of what
government opponents hope is another mass march Tuesday afternoon. At least
800,000 people turned out for demonstrations around France when the strike
movement kicked off last Thursday.
Protests were being held around the country Tuesday, with union activists
waving red flags from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Lille in the north.
Unions fear Macron's retirement reform will force people to work longer for
smaller pensions, even though the government says it won't raise the official
retirement age of 62.
Nationwide, only about a fifth of French trains ran normally Tuesday,
frustrating tourists who found train stations empty and trains canceled. Most
Paris subways were at a halt, and just one bus in three was running normally.
Paris roads were jammed with traffic.
Some commuters used ride-sharing apps or stayed with friends and family near
their offices. Others dusted off old bicycles, tested electric scooters for the
first time or walked several miles to avoid sitting in traffic-choked
"Usually it takes me 1 hour and 10 minutes (to get to work), but today I
left home at 8 a.m. and it's already 10 a.m. and I'm still not at work yet,"
said commuter Nabil Nouali, disembarking from a tram on the edge of Paris after
coming from the suburbs.
"I understand the situation, (retirement reform) concerns us all," he told
The Associated Press. "But at the same time, it penalizes all the people who
have to go to work and don't have a car."
Air France, the national carrier, said more than 25% of its domestic traffic
was grounded Tuesday by the strike, along with more than 10% of its
medium-range flights, on the orders of the French civil aviation authority.
About half of Paris schools were closed and others had many classes
Overall the number of striking workers is lower than last week, and the
strike may fizzle after the government releases long-awaited details of the
retirement plan Wednesday.
The strikes are a big test for Macron, who promised to reform France's
retirement system while campaigning for president in 2017.
He has ordered two years of consultations with workers and employers about
the new system, which aims to blend 42 separate retirement plans into one.
Macron argues that the reform is needed to keep the pension system from
sinking into billions of euros of debt as life spans lengthen, and to make it
more universally fair to all workers, not just those in certain professions.
Unions, however, fear the pension changes are part of a broader mission to
dismantle hard-won worker protections.