(MENAFN- Gulf Times) Some 757,000 people took part in protests across France yesterday against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to reform the pensions system, police said, fewer than on two previous protest days.
The hard-left CGT union put the turnout for yesterday at“close to two million”.
Public transport, schools and refinery supplies were disrupted as trade unions led a third wave of nationwide strikes. Yesterday's multi-sector walkouts come a day after pension reform legislation began its bumpy passage through parliament, and are a test of Macron's ability to enact change without a working majority in the National Assembly.
The government says people must work two years longer - meaning for most until the age of 64 - in order to keep the budget of one of the industrial world's most generous pension systems in the black. The French spend the largest number of years in retirement among OECD countries - a deeply cherished benefit that a substantial majority are reluctant to give up, polls show.
At the start of a protest march in Paris, union leaders Philippe Martinez of the hardleft CGT and Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT stood side by side to denounce the pension reform.
“This reform will upend the lives of several generations. If the government stubbornly forges ahead, we will step up our protest with longer and harder actions,” Martinez said.
Berger, whose union traditionally takes a more conciliatory stance, rejected sweeteners offered by the government, such as increasing the lowest pensions.“These concessions are just patches. Increasing the legal retirement to 64 is the core of this reform and it is deeply unfair. It is a democratic folly for the government to turn a deaf ear to the protest,” he said. Strike participation appeared lower than a week earlier, data showed, but the government will be watching street protests to gauge how strong public opposition remains.
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