Cyprus Mail

French rail strike and protests longest in decade

Members of the Paris Opera's orchestra, workers of the Paris transport network (RATP) French SNCF railway workers and teachers demonstrate at the city's Place de la Bastille square on New Year's Eve

French rail strikes against government plans to reform France‘s retirement system have marked a new milestone of 29 straight days of walkouts, surpassing even the lengths of strikes in the 1980s.

The nationwide walkouts against the government’s pension plans started on December 5.

On Thursday, they surpassed a 1986-1987 rail strike in longevity, a walkout that lasted 28 days at the SNCF national rail company.

The current strikes have crippled train and metro services in Paris and across the country over the Christmas-New Year period and continue to cause severe disruptions.

The SNCF said half of its vaunted high-speed trains were not running on Thursday.

Only two automated lines were running normally on the Paris Metro, with services patchy or non-existent across the rest of the network.

Unions are gearing up for further walkouts next week, when French schools reopen and negotiations are set to resume with the government.

French police used tear gas to disperse protesters blockading a Paris bus depot on Thursday, the latest confrontation between the authorities and unions over plans to reform the pension system.

The protests, now in their 29th day, are the longest since 1968.

Video footage from a BFM television reporter published on Twitter showed police firing tear gas into a crowd at the entrance to the bus depot.

BFM television also showed a stand-off later in the morning in central Paris, near the Opera Garnier.

The hardline CGT union has called for more strikes this month after President Emmanuel Macron promised to push through his pension reforms.

Macron said in a New Year’s Eve address that he expected his government to reach a compromise quickly with unions on the reforms, but without departing from principles laid out by ministers.

In a televised address on Tuesday, French President Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed his commitment to the pension overhaul but urged his government to “find the path of a quick compromise” with unions.

Macron stayed firm on the principles of the reform, including its most decried measure: raising the eligibility age for full pensions from 62 to 64.

He insisted the new system will be fairer to all French workers and will be financially sustainable.

The plan aims to unite dozens of separate pension systems into one and eliminate special deals that let some French transit workers retire in their fifties.

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