Massive Strikes Hit France: More Than One Million People Join 200 Protest Marches

France Protest

A massive strike has hit France on Thursday. Workers and other earners joined hands in protesting pension reform. Trade union sources said the number of people joining more than 200 protest marches was 2 million. Police had to use tear gas to contain the protesters in Paris.

Teachers, railway workers and public sector employees abandoned joined the protest marches to oppose a planned increase in the retirement age

Citing France’s interior ministry, media reports said:

About 1.12 million people took part in protests across France.

Of the about 1.12 million people who joined the protests, 80,000 were in Paris alone, BFMTV said.

Earlier in the day, Philippe Martinez, general secretary of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) trade union, estimated the total number at 2 million, with 400,000 protesters in Paris.

More than 200 demonstrations took place across France on Thursday amid a nationwide strike against pension reform, at the initiative of eight leading French trade unions (CFDT, CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, CFTC, Usa, Solidaires, FSU). The largest protests were held in Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Nantes.

Train services, schools, flights and scores of businesses in France were disrupted on Thursday as labor unions organized mass protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age to 64, a move bitterly opposed by the French public.

The largest marches took place in Paris.

A large-scale protest began at the Republic Square in Paris. The demonstrators included representatives of various industries, supporters of the Yellow Vests movement, as well as black bloc radicals. The protests turned violent after radicals began throwing stones, bottles, flares and firecrackers at the police. In response, the police used tear gas and began to push the crowd back by force. Police arrested 38 people in Paris so far.

Amid the demonstrations, police officers clashed with black-clad anarchists, who regularly show up at protests in France to spar with police. Video footage showed armored officers using tear gas and batons on the black-clad bloc and other nearby protesters.

Similar demonstrations were held in the cities of Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and Toulouse, and in more than 200 other locations across the country.

France’s eight largest trade unions participated, meaning that schools, railways, airports, power plants and other vital utilities were operating at a drastically reduced capacity on Thursday.

As few as one in five high-speed TGV train lines were running, the rail operator SNCF said, while Eurostar said that several connections with the UK were canceled. More than 40% of primary school teachers didn’t show up for work, CNN reported, citing the French education ministry.

Macron’s government is urging parliament to pass a bill that would raise the retirement age for most French workers from 62 to 64, a result that would still see these workers getting their pensions three years earlier than most of their European counterparts.

While the government insists that this reform is necessary to stop the country’s pension system from sliding into deficit, the unions argue that the system should instead be buoyed by increasing taxes on the wealthy rather than by squeezing more productivity out of aging workers.

“It is rare for French unions to all agree on something, so it demonstrates the seriousness of the issue,” CGT leader Philippe Martinez told France24 on Thursday morning.

Macron, who already tried and failed to hike the retirement age in 2019, told reporters that the reform is “just and responsible.” The public, however, disagrees. A poll taken last week found that 68% of French people are “hostile to this pension reform,” although only 51% support the unions’ campaign of protests and strikes.

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