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French workers stage mass strike in retirement age dispute

French workers have staged a day of strikes with demonstrations taking place across the country. Unions want the government to rethink controversial reforms that would raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.

A man puts a 50 euro note into a cannister

French workers will have to pay into the system for longer

French unions staged a strike over pension reforms on Thursday, crippling transport networks and closing schools.

Transport authorities said that about one in two main line trains were running into and out of Paris, with only a quarter of metro trains operating in the city.

French airport authority DGAC said that some 15 percent of flights would have to be cancelled between 7am and 2pm.

About half of the France's teachers were expected to go on strike, according to the teaching union SNUipp-FSU, with many schools closed.

A train at a platform in France

Public transport has been hit, with many cancellations

Around 200 demonstrations were planned across the country, demanding that the government drop plans to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 by 2018.

"We hope we can get over a million demonstrators. I think it's clear we will exceed this figure," Francois Chereque, head of the French Democratic Confederation of Labor told RTL radio.

Action to avoid deficit

A planned overhaul of the pension regime was announced last week, with the government arguing that the system would run up annual deficits of 100 billion euros ($134.2 billion) by 2050 without the changes.

Labor Minister Eric Woerth said the government would not back down and that the proposed reforms were "indispensible and fair," but said there was room for negotiation on details.

Retirement at the age of 60 is seen by many in France as a basic right since it was introduced in 1983. The minimum period of contributions to qualify is also set to rise from 40 years and six months to 41 years.

Author: Richard Connor (Reuters/AFP)
Editor: Rob Turner

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