France transport strikes paralyze weekend travel | News | DW | 07.12.2019
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France transport strikes paralyze weekend travel

Train travel in France has been severely disrupted by a nationwide strike that trade unions say could continue into next week. The unions are protesting government plans to end early retirement.

Travel around France was disrupted Saturday as the most serious nationwide strikes in years continue to keep most rail transport from running. Labor unions have warned the walkouts could last into next week.

French train operator SNCF said on Twitter that long distance and local trains were running a skeleton service Saturday at between 5-16%. SNCF also warned of "dangerous" overcrowding at stations and advised against nonessential travel.

SNCF said on its website it expects major disruptions in the French rail network to continue into Monday.

Tourists and shoppers in Paris faced closed Metro stations, with nine lines shut entirely, five partially, and just the driverless 1 and 14 lines running normally.

Partial cancellations were also announced for Eurostar trains to London and Brussels, and Thalys trains into Belgium and Germany.

Civil aviation authorities said that flight schedules returned to normal, after nearly 20% of flights to and from French airports were cancelled Friday.

Why are workers striking?

Transport workers are angry at French President Emmanuel Macron's far-reaching pension reform proposals that could phase out the right to early retirement.

Unions say Macron's proposal for a single, points-based pension system would force millions of people in both the public and private sectors to work well beyond the official retirement age of 62.

Macron says an overhaul is needed to streamline a complex system of 42 special pension plans, and will make the system more fair and financially sustainable.

Read moreFrance: Police and protesters clash in massive strike over Macron's pension reform

On Thursday, more than 800,000 people turned out for nationwide demonstrations against the reforms.

A day later, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe defended the pension reforms, and said the French people knew that the current system could not last, and "little by little," they would also have to work longer.

Riding the wave of Thursday's turnout, trade unions called for another series of nationwide demonstrations on Tuesday.

The strikes resemble those from the winter of 1995, when three weeks of huge transport stoppages forced a turnaround in social policy by the then-government.

Watch video 02:18

France paralyzed by strikes

 wmr/stb  (AFP, dpa)

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