PARIS: France reeled under a crippling public transport strike for a 10th day on Saturday (Dec 14) aimed at forcing the government to scrap a pension revamp, as fears grew of travel mayhem during Christmas.
Strikers have warned of similar disruptions on Sunday and Monday and national rail operator SNCF and the RATP Paris transport network confirmed service would be very limited with just one in four TGVs running.
The prospect of a protracted standoff has businesses fearing big losses during the crucial year-end festivities, and travellers worried that their holiday plans will fall through.
“If the government wants the conflict to end before the holidays, they have all of next week to take the wise decision and scrap the point-based pension plan,” Laurent Blum, the general secretary of the hard-line CGT-Cheminots, the main SNCF union, told AFP.
The reform would do away with 42 separate regimes, some of which offer early retirement and other benefits to public sector workers such as train drivers, dockers and even Paris Opera employees.
The strike organisers have announced a massive protest for Tuesday when tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets again.
Meanwhile teachers, who have been mobilised since the start of the protest, on Friday gained guarantees from the government of salary reviews which would cost the state 10 billion euros. The details were not revealed.
Policemen meanwhile ended their protest on Friday after managing to get assurances that their early retirement scheme would be maintained, owing to the “dangerous” nature of their job.
Both Paris operas, the Garnier and the Bastille, cancelled Friday performances, and more through the weekend.
The average French person retires at just over 60, years earlier than most in Europe or other rich OECD countries.
Macron, who has maintained a studied silence since the protests began, told reporters in Brussels on Friday that it was a “historic reform”, while expressing solidarity with those affected by the fallout.