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Strike paralyses France as unions face off against Macron

Strike paralyses France as unions face off against Macron

AFP
Paris
A nationwide strike shut down public transport, schools and other services across France on Thursday as unions kicked off an open-ended strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a “universal” pension system they say will force millions of people to work longer.
Parents scrambled to organise daycare as teachers walked off the job or were unable to get to work, and many employees were working from home or forced to take the day off as trains, metros and buses were cancelled.
Union leaders have vowed to keep up their protest unless Macron drops the pension overhaul, the latest move in the centrist president’s push to reform wide swathes of the French economy.
“The idea of social concertation that Macron says is so important in fact doesn’t exist,” the head of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said on BFM television Thursday.
Around 90 percent of high-speed TGV trains as well as regional lines were cancelled, and Air France has axed 30 percent of domestic flights and 15 percent of short-haul international routes.
In Paris, 11 of the 16 metro lines were shut down and others had just bare-bones service during the morning rush hour, and the Eiffel Tower turned away tourists because of the strike.
The strike -- which is open-ended and could last several days -- has drawn comparisons with the showdown between government and unions over pensions in Nov-Dec 1995, when the country was paralysed for around three weeks.
Unions won that battle, and are banking on widespread support from both public and private-sector workers against Macron’s reform.
The strikes will be a major test of whether Macron, a former investment banker who came to power on the back of a promise to transform France, has the political strength to push through one of his key campaign pledges.