France: strikes against pension reforms to interrupt rail and plane traffic

A nationwide protest in France against the planned pension reform is anticipated to disrupt French train and plane services on February 7 severely.

Disruptions in rail and air traffic expected

Reuters reported that the national railway and civil aviation authorities had foreseen significant disruptions. According to SNCF, around half of the regular high-speed rail services on national lines would operate. One out of every four on the Eurostar connection to London would stay.

At the same time, the French civil aviation authorities stated that airport delays and interruptions could be expected despite the implementation of minimum service guarantees. They indicated that they had urged airlines to curtail flights out of Paris’s Orly airport by 20%.

Government plans to raise the pension age by two years to 64

France is amidst its third massive protest since the government announced plans last month to raise the pension age by two years to 64. Unions represent workers in the energy sector, education, public servants, and others.

In the previous strike, on January 31, more than 1.2 million people went on the streets. Massive crowds marched across France to protest against the government’s plan to make people work longer before retiring.

Macron calls the reform “essential” to ensure pension system’s stability

According to polls, many French people reject raising the retirement age to 64 from 62. French President Emmanuel Macron calls this move “essential” to ensure the pension system’s stability.

Marching behind banners that read “No to the Reform” or “We Will Not Give Up,” the French protesters claimed they would take to the streets as many times as it took for the government to reverse course.

Prime Minister’s concessions

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne offered on February 5 to modify the government’s plans by allowing those who started working before the age of 22 to retire early. In this way, she hopes to gain the backing of conservatives in parliament.

Since the president’s Macron party lost its absolute majority in parliament last year, the government requires votes from the conservative Les Republicains to pass the unpopular pension reform in the parliament.

Unions object to government’s arguments

According to the French Labor Ministry projections, the pension system reform would result in an additional 17.7 billion euros in yearly pension contributions. 

Unions argue that there are alternative methods to raise revenue, such as taxing the ultra-wealthy or requiring employers or well-off retirees to contribute more.

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