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French workers renew pressure on Macron to scrap pension plan

Workers in France, including train and metro drivers, refinery workers, garbage collectors and more, have held further strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64, pressuring the government with community action as lawmakers discussed the reforms.

Wednesday’s protest action focused on women – and the retirement reform’s impact on working mothers – coincided with International Women’s Day.

Activists see the pension reform as unfair to women, especially because they say it would further deepen gender inequalities.

The reform would raise the minimum pension age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work to earn a full pension, amid other measures. 

The government argues that the current system is expected to dive into deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.

Millions join protests in France over Macron’s pension reform

No to working longer’

About 150 employees from the Louvre museum gathered Wednesday morning in the room where Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is displayed, brandishing a huge banner writing “No to working longer” in front of the iconic painting, a union statement said. 

They wanted to show “solidarity towards the women’s fight for their rights across the world” and denounce the pension plan’s impact on female workers, the statement said.

The Louvre museum said on its website that it is open to visitors but warned that some rooms are closed due to the protests.

The continuing strikes and protest action come after more than a million demonstrators marched in cities and towns across France on Tuesday, in what unions see as the biggest show of force against the planned changes since the beginning of the movement in January.

Unions demand the withdrawal of the reform. The bill is under debate in the Senate this week.

Trade unions to bring France to a halt with strikes to block pension reform

Growing opposition

“We are aware that the effort required from the French does not win the support from a majority,” government spokesman Olivier Veran said Wednesday.

“But we are convinced that alternatives – raising taxes, increasing the (state) debt, decreasing pensions – would not win more the support of public opinion.”

Opinion polls consistently suggest that most French voters oppose the pension plan.

Veran hoped Article 7 of the bill, which is focusing on raising the retirement age from 62 to 64, will be adopted by the Senate later on Wednesday. Talks at the upper house of parliament are scheduled to last until the end of the week.

On Wednesday morning, train traffic and the Paris metro remained severely disrupted.

The SNCF rail authority said only one high-speed train in three was expected to circulate across the country. Trains to Spain have come to a halt and some cancellations affect those to and from Britain and Belgium.

A fifth of flights has been cancelled at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and about a third at Orly Airport.

Oil shipments in the country were halted for a second consecutive day amid strikes at the refineries of TotalEnergies and Esso ExxonMobil, according to the CGT union.

Paris garbage collectors also decided to continue the strike on Wednesday.

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