France pension reform strikes: Transport chaos on day 2 | News | DW | 06.12.2019
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France pension reform strikes: Transport chaos on day 2

People took to the streets in France for a second day of nationwide general strikes. Protests over Macron's pension proposals turned violent on Thursday with people starting fires and clashing with police.

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France paralyzed by strikes

France was hit by a second day of severe disruption on Friday as nationwide strikes over proposed pension reforms continue. 

The industrial action followed the pattern of the previous day:

  • Almost all high-speed train services and hundreds of flights will be canceled and most of the Paris metro system will remain shut.
  • Travel difficulties are expected to continue into the weekend with the SNCF rail operator already halting weekend ticket sales.
  • The prospect of fuel shortages is growing after hardline CGT Union workers blocked seven of the country's eight oil refineries.
  • Schools remained shut with many teachers on strike.
  • Hospital emergency rooms will run with minimum staff.

DW's correspondent in Paris, Lisa Louis, said people "want to go back to work" in the morning on the second day of the strike. She reported over 300 kilometers (186 miles) of traffic jams on Friday morning on main roads in Paris, with people opting to take cars to work as the transport sector was "still at a standstill largely."

She added that the strike "looked like it was having a huge impact."

Commuter Bertim Zebly, outside the Gare de Lyon station in Paris, told dpa news agency that his return to work had "not gone well at all."

How long will the strike last?

French unions called for a further intergenerational strike on Tuesday, after Thursday's general strike that saw a large turnout and drew comparisons with the 1995 national strikes that paralyzed the country over welfare reforms.

"Everybody in the street on Tuesday, December 10, for a new day... of strikes, actions and protests," said Catherine Perret, senior member of the hardline CGT union, the nation's biggest public sector union.

The government has been negotiating with unions and other organizations for months over the pension plans but the details will only be released next week. Unions are calling for open-ended strikes in order to keep the pressure up during negotiations.

President Emmanuel Macron made no official comment, with his Twitter account featuring videos from his recent NATO appearance.

Later on Friday, Macron's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that the government would hold fast to its reform plans, extensive details of which will be presented on Wednesday. "France will have to work a little longer," he said.

Riot police aim LBD 40, Flash-Ball non-lethal rubber bullet guns at protesters

Riot police aimed non-lethal rubber bullets at protesters after strikes turned violent

What happened on day 1?

The first day of strikes brought the country to a standstill and descended into clashes between riot police and demonstrators.

French police said that more than 65,000 people took to the streets in Paris.

Outside of the capital, around half a million people came out to protest, according to an official tally.

What are Macron's pension reforms?

Macron plans to reform France's pension system, calling it unfair and costly. He wants to introduce a single, points-based system that he said will guarantee equal rights to every pensioner.

Macron also wants to implement a "universal" retirement system, which was one of his major campaign promises. But labor unions say the proposed reforms would effectively require millions of private-sector workers to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 in order to receive the full pension.

Many people striking also see the reforms as the government stripping away the country's social safety net and liberalizing the pensions and labor market.

The strike follows a year after the infamous Yellow Vest movement began protesting inequality in the country.

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