France was bracing for a second nationwide strike on Tuesday in a backlash against government plans to raise the retirement age to 64.
More than 1 million people marched during the first round of protests on January 19, and labor unions expected a similar turnout for the latest action.
The actions come as lawmakers debate the bill at the parliamentary committee level.
Major transport disruptions and congestion were expected, with only one in three TGV high-speed trains being broken down and very few local and regional trains operating. The Paris Metro was also expected to be severely disrupted.
National carrier Air France said it expected to cancel one in 10 short- and medium-haul services, but that long-haul flights would not be affected. About half of all nursery and primary school teachers would strike, the main Snuipp-FSU teachers union said.
What is the new plan?
Opinion polls show most French people oppose the reform, but President Emmanuel Macron and his government appear intent on sticking to their position. Macron says the reform is important to keep the pension system functioning.
The government’s plan calls for gradually raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2030 and increasing the number of years needed to pay into the system to receive a full pension from 42 to 43.
All retired people in France receive a state pension – currently around 1,400 euros ($1,500) a month on average – funded by contributions from those still in the workforce. The new plan aims to provide a minimum pension of €1,200 per month.
The system is now at risk due to an aging population, with more and more pensioners supported by fewer and fewer contributors.
Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne says the 64 threshold is “non-negotiable” but the government is exploring ways to offset some of the impact, particularly on women.
The Ministry of Labor estimates that the postponement of the retirement age by two years and the extension
payment period would yield an additional €17.7 billion ($19.18 billion) in annual pension contributions. This would allow the system to break down by 2027.
However, unions say there are other ways to break the deadlock, such as taxing the super-rich or requiring financially privileged employers or pensioners to contribute more.
tg/rc (AFP, Reuters)
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