The French government on Friday expressed determination to plow ahead with pension reforms in the face of the biggest strikes in years, which have brought public transport in much of the country to a standstill.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government would not abandon the plan for an ambitious pension reform that would require the French "to work a bit longer", though pledging to work with trade unions to introduce a single points-based pension scheme for all.
France currently has 42 retirement systems that apply to various professions and can include specific provisions, like early retirement for train workers and rail workers. With the proposal, Macron's government wants to apply one set of rules to all new pensioners, saying it will make the system fairer and simpler.
The strikes, which began on Thursday, have seen most high-speed trains canceled, flights affected and most of the Paris metro shut down. Mass rallies brought over 800,000 people onto the streets on Thursday and are expected to continue until at least next Tuesday when unions have called more nationwide protests.
In Paris, nine of the capital's 16 metro lines were shut while many others were running only during rush hours, prompting commuters to turn to bicycles, electric scooters and other alternatives or to work from home.
Many people in the Paris region worked from home or took a day off to stay with their children, since a significant number of teachers in the capital went on strike.
The government is expected to reveal the details of the reform plan next week. It promised not to touch the official retirement age – 62, though lower for certain physically demanding occupations – but the plan will encourage some people to work longer.
Prime Minister Philippe said he did not believe the French would always accept a situation where some retire earlier, and with more money than others doing comparable jobs. He said the changes would be introduced progressively, without harshness.
"My logic will never be one of confrontation," he said. President Macron has not spoken so far on the demonstration.
At the heart of the protest is the fight for the hard-fought French way of life. Opponents fear that Macron's pension reform would take money out of their pockets and reduce their holiday period. Those who now enjoy the more advantageous pension schemes, e.g. railway workers, argue that the current pension arrangement is a fair compensation to the many constraints that go with their jobs, like working on weekends and holidays.
The demonstration marks the biggest challenge to President Macron since the yellow vest movement against economic inequality that took place a year ago. Since coming to power, Macron had initiated major changes to the labor market, including loosening labor laws and tightening access to unemployment benefits, which he insisted during his election that were necessary for France to become a more dynamic economy. But protests so far have made Macron's popularity flat-lining at around 33 percent.
While most of the rallies on Thursday were peaceful, police fired tear gas to disperse dozens of black-clad protesters smashing windows and throwing stones during the Paris march, with one construction trailer set on fire.
Several dozens of people were arrested, and three journalists were injured after reportedly being hit by tear gas or stun grenades, including a Turkish journalist who was struck in the face.
The last time the French government attempted to launch a national pension reform, around two million took to the streets, leading to the government to drop the reform plan.
سایت تابناک از انتشار نظرات حاوی توهین و افترا و نوشته شده با حروف لاتین (فینگیلیش) معذور است.