Strikes in France: Workers bring Paris to a standstill in second mass protest against pension age reform


French schools and transport networks were heavily disrupted on Tuesday for the second time this month as unions staged another mass strike against government plans to raise the retirement age for most workers.

Trade unions and opposition parties called on people to demonstrate in major cities, hoping for a repeat of the first major demonstration against the plans on January 19, in which more than a million people took part. Strikes that day paralyzed the transport network and closed the Eiffel Tower to visitors.

In Paris, more than 100 schools were due to close on Tuesday as 60% of teachers walked off the job, the main education union FSU said on Twitter.

The French capital had to bear the brunt of the protests and the country’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, said 4,000 police would be deployed to ensure the strikes took place “without any serious incidents”.

The city’s transport agency, RATP, warned that metro and commuter rail services would be “very disrupted”.

National rail operator SNCF said two-thirds of trains on TGV, France’s high-speed intercity rail service, would be canceled on Tuesday and only 20% of regional trains would operate.

Air France (AFLYY) canceled 10% of short-haul flights but said the strikes would not affect long-haul services. Eurostar, meanwhile, has canceled several connections between Paris and London.

There would be 248 demonstrations across the country, Philippe Martinez, the head of one of France’s largest trade union confederations, the CGT, told CNN affiliate BFM-TV on Tuesday.

Despite the mass action, President Emmanuel Macron’s government remains firm on planned pension reforms, which will gradually raise the age at which French citizens can collect a state pension to 64, from 62.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said raising the retirement age was “not negotiable”, during an interview with national television channel France Info.

The government said the legislation was needed to tackle a funding shortfall, but the reforms have angered workers at a time when the cost of living is rising.

Thousands of people took part in mass demonstrations in the streets of Paris last year to protest the cost of living, and strikes by workers demanding higher wages caused fuel pumps to run out across the country a few months ago.

France devotes nearly 14% of its GDP to public pensions, one of the highest rates among the countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Raising the retirement age to 64 will keep France below the norm in Europe and many other developed economies, where the age of acquisition of full pension rights is 65 and tends more in addition to 67 years.

— Marguerite Lacroix contributed to this article.

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