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French Strike Against Pension Reforms Continues



One of France’s biggest demonstrations in recent history continued Friday, with unions vowing to protest until the government backs down on planned pension reforms.Metro, rail and air service were severely disrupted again Friday, as France marked its second day of nationwide protests against a planned overhaul of the pension system.On Thursday, more than 800,000 people took to the streets across the country in a mass show of anger. Their numbers were more than double those of last year’s yellow-vests — although that protest movement hopes to revive on the back of this current discontent.Protesters hide behind a wooden board and an umbrella during a demonstration against the pension overhauls, in Nantes, Dec. 5, 2019, as part of a national general strike.Many of the current demonstrations have been peaceful, but in Paris, some were marked by clashes between police and so-called Black Bloc anarchists. The strike also shuttered schools and many tourist attractions.Pension reform is an explosive issue here. President Emmanuel Macron wants to standardize and simplify the current system comprised of myriad plans, retirement ages and benefits. The last major reform effort in 1995 triggered three weeks of paralyzing strikes — with the government backing off on the most ambitious changes.With people living much longer and a chunk of working-age French unemployed, analyst Jean Peteaux of Sciences-Po Bordeaux university says France’s pension system faces serious financial strains. He says it remains to be seen whether the government’s method will work.Yves Veyrier, general secretary of the Force Ouvriere union, told French radio it was important the mobilization continues. But he and other unions are also opting for the traditional path of negotiations with the government.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe says people have the right to strike — but those who want to work should be allowed to do so. Unions have announced another strike next Tuesday.