French strikers continue to press to reject pension scheme

PARIS (AP) — French train and subway drivers, refinery workers, garbage collectors and others on Wednesday held further strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64 in a bid to keep pressure on the government amid the ongoing parliamentary elections. debate.

New protests targeting women – and the impact of the pension reform on working mothers – are expected to coincide with International Women’s Day on Wednesday. Feminist activists view the pension reform as unfair to women, mainly because they say it would exacerbate the gender inequalities they face throughout their careers.

The ongoing strikes and protests come after more than a million protesters marched in cities and towns across France on Tuesday, in what unions consider the biggest show of force against the planned changes since the movement began in January.

Trade unions are demanding the repeal of the reform. The bill will be discussed in the Senate this week.

On Wednesday morning, train traffic and the Paris metro remained seriously disrupted.

The SNCF rail authority said only one in three high-speed trains were expected to run across the country. Trains to Spain have come to a halt and some cancellations affect trains to and from Britain and Belgium.

One fifth of the flights have been canceled at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and about a third at Orly airport.

According to the CGT union, oil shipments in the country have been halted for a second consecutive day due to strikes at the TotalEnergies and Esso ExxonMobil refineries.

The Parisian garbage collectors also decided to continue the strike on Wednesday.

In addition, striking workers blocked access to ports in the western cities of Rouen and Le Havre.

Macron has vowed to move forward with the bill, which he presents as key to his pro-business economic policy.

The reform would raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work to earn a full pension, among other measures. The government says the system is expected to plunge into a deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.

Left-wing lawmakers say corporations and the wealthy should contribute more to fund the pension system.

Unions have called for another day of nationwide demonstrations on Saturday.

On Thursday, youth organizations representing students who have not even entered employment yet try to mobilize young people to take to the streets to share their concerns about pension rights.

While the measure has a good chance of eventually being passed by the Senate, unions hope that strikes and protests will force the government to make concessions as the bill progresses through the complex legislative process.

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