Hanging unions battle Macron in pensions showdown

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PARIS (Information) – Railway employees, lecturers and emergency room medics launched one of many largest public sector strikes in France for many years on Thursday, decided to power President Emmanuel Macron to desert plans to overtake France’s beneficiant pension system.

Transport networks in Paris and past floor to a close to halt as unions dug in for a protest that threatens to paralyze France for days and poses the severest problem to Macron’s reform agenda for the reason that “yellow vest” protests erupted.

Riot police in Nantes, western France, fired tear fuel at masked protesters who hurled projectiles at them. In Lyon and Marseille, 1000’s extra protesters carried banners that learn “Macron get misplaced” and “Don’t contact our pensions”.

“What we’ve acquired to do is shut the economic system down,” Christian Grolier, a senior official from the hard-left Power Ouvriere union, informed Information. “Individuals are spoiling for a combat.”

Commuters in Paris dusted off bicycles, turned to carpooling apps or labored from dwelling to keep away from the crush on the restricted practice and metro providers that operated within the morning rush hour.

Airport employees, truck drivers and police are becoming a member of the strike at a time of widespread discontent towards Macron’s drive to make France’s economic system extra aggressive and minimize public spending. French legislation requires minimal public providers are maintained throughout a strike.

Macron needs to simplify France’s unwieldy pension system, which contains greater than 40 completely different plans, many with completely different retirement ages and advantages. Rail employees, mariners and Paris Opera Home ballet dancers can retire as much as a decade sooner than the common employee.

Macron says the system is unfair and too pricey. He needs a single, points-based system beneath which for every euro contributed, each pensioner has equal rights.

For the previous funding banker, the showdown with strikers will set the tone for the second half of his mandate, with tougher reforms to return, together with to unemployment advantages.

Neither is it with out danger for the hard-left unions whose membership and affect have diminished in recent times. They face a fragile balancing act of needing to stress the manager whereas not making a public backlash.

French SNCF railway employees stand on a platform to offer help for passangers at Lille railway throughout a day of nationwide strike and protests towards French authorities’s pensions reform plans, in Lille, France, December 5, 2019. Information/Pascal Rossignol

“For 30 years successive governments have tried to deliver reform and fail as a result of the unions cripple the nation,” mentioned 56-year-old cafe proprietor Isabelle Guibal. “Individuals can work round it in the present day and tomorrow, however subsequent week individuals could get aggravated.”

STREET PROTESTS

In Paris, Riot police erected boundaries in streets surrounding the president and prime minister’s workplaces forward avenue protests within the capital.

Inside Minister Christophe Castaner mentioned 1000’s of anarchist “black bloc” and hardcore “yellow vest” protesters, who took to the streets for months over the price of residing and perceived elitism of political class, may attempt to wreak havoc.

Castaner ordered outlets alongside the route to shut. Some 6,000 police will likely be deployed, together with dozens of rapid-response officers on motorbikes.

The SNCF state railway mentioned just one in 10 high-speed TGV trains would run and police reported energy cables on the road linking Paris and the Riviera had been vandalized. The civil aviation authority requested airways to cancel 20% of flights due to knock-on results from the strike.

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Previous makes an attempt at pension reform have ended badly. Former president Jacques Chirac’s conservative authorities in 1995 caved into union calls for after weeks of crippling protests.

A survey final month confirmed public opinion was break up over Macron’s pension reform.

“It is sensible to have a single pension regime for all professions,” one commuter who gave his title as Nicolas mentioned. “Railway work has particularities similar to different jobs, however I simply don’t see that resort, restaurant or development work is any simpler bodily talking or by way of hours.”

Reporting by Caroline Pailliez, Geert de Clercq, Sybille de La Hamaide, Marine Pennetier, Laurence Frost in paris and Guillaume Frouin in Nantes; Writing by Richard Lough; Modifying by Christian Lowe and Alison Williams