French unions vow to stand firm as pension strike softens
Published on: Saturday, January 18, 2020
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People march in Paris during the sixth day of mass demonstrations on the 43rd day of nationwide multi-sector protests and strikes against government pensions reform.
PARIS: Striking workers poured into streets across France for a sixth day of demonstrations against a pensions overhaul, putting up a show of defiance after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the historic transport stoppage “has gone on for too long”.

The rallies came on the 43rd day of a strike that again snarled train and metro traffic and caused misery for millions of commuters in Paris especially.

“It’s never too late to make a government back down,” Philippe Martinez of the hardline CGT union said ahead of a demonstration at the Montparnasse train station in the capital that included striking teachers, lawyers and hospital workers.

“Our determination is still just as strong” as when the strike was launched on December 5, he said. Protest numbers were lower than on previous days, however, with the interior ministry estimating the national total at 187,000, with about 23,000 turning out in the capital.

The figures are less than half the count from a week earlier, and way down from an estimated turnout of 805,000 on the first day of the strike. The action is being led by workers at railway operators RATP and SNCF, who risk losing special early retirement provision under their existing, separate pension scheme which the government is proposing to merge with 41 others to create a single, points-based plan for all.

The number of strikers at the SNCF rose to 10 percent compared with just 4.3 percent at the beginning of the week.

The moderate CFDT union, France’s largest, did not take part in the rally, after welcoming a move by Philippe to temporarily withdraw a measure that would have forced people to work until 64 to qualify for a full pension. – AFP


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