France braces for intense protests over Macron’s intended pension reform

France shaken by this decade’s biggest protests in which trade unions urge other residents to oppose French President Emmanuel Macron’s intended pension reform.

During protests on Thursday, 5 December, public transport operations slowed to a halt, schools closed down and waste management ceased.

Only one out of ten flights operate. Eurostar and Thalys have cancelled at least half their flights connecting Paris with London and Brussels. The French government has asked airlines to cancel at least one-fifth of flights scheduled for this day.

It is estimated that at least half of elementary and primary school teachers have not shown up for work and hospital ambulance wards work with minimal number of staff. Trade unions of different carriers have not yet set a date when strikes are set to end.

«What we’ve got to do is shut the economy down,» said senior official from hard-left Force Ouvriere union Christian Grolier said, adding «people are spoiling for a fight».
Macron plans to simplify France’s pension system, which currently has more than 40 pension plan versions, all of which having their own retirement ages and offered advantages. Macron is confident the existing system is unfair and too expensive.

The French president wants a single system that would offer all pensioners equal rights for each paid euro.

Previous French presidents had failed to sort out the country’s pension system. In 1995, then the president Jacques Chirac’s conservative government was forced to cave after weeks of protests. This time the fight will be intense, too, because left-leaning trade unions in France have received more member and support in society over the past several years.

This fight will likely dictate the mood of the second half of Macron’s presidential term, because there are also plans to reform unemployment benefits.

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