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339,000 protesters ramp up pressure on French President Macron over pensions reform


Transportation services have been severely disrupted across the nation.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters including teachers took to the streets across France for the sixth day straight to strike against pension reforms proposed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Although the turnout is expected to be lower than the 800,000 strikers from last Thursday, strikers from a range of trade unions are expected to rally in major cities from Paris to Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux and Grenoble. The strikes are continuing to have a major impact on transportation across the country — in total 25% of domestic flights and 50% of bus routes have been cancelled.

Workers are striking against proposed changes to the country’s pension system by President Macron.

Macron promised in his election campaign to merge dozens of pensions’ schemes for different employment sectors into one universal system, which opponents say will see certain industries lose out. Under the current system, there is no fixed retirement age with pensions instead being collected after a minimum contribution period to a pension fund.

That could change under the proposed reforms, laid out in a report in June 2019 by the High Commissioner for Pensions Jean Paul Delevoye. The reforms have not yet been finalized, but a series of new proposals published at the end of November 2019 have sparked a wave of anger across the country.

In Paris, 10% of schools have been closed as the main teachers’ trade unions joined in with rail and airport unions to demonstrate on Tuesday. The interior minister reported that 339,000 protesters were across France including 31,000 in Paris on Tuesday.

Local police in Paris have prepared for the protests to turn violent, and have banned the “yellow vests” — anti-government protesters who have sometimes clashing violently with police since November 2018 — from attending protests in certain areas of the capital.

Yellow vest protesters joined the peaceful demonstrators at Denfert-Rochereau Square on Tuesday. Police said 22 people were arrested on Tuesday for various protest rule violations like bringing forbidden objects like a mask to cover the face, in their bags objects.

The strikers are expected to continue demonstrating over the coming days with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announcing the pension law in full Wednesday afternoon.

One demonstrator told ABC News that there is “real unity” where it comes to the strikers’ demands.

“The big question is how will we live after our working days,” Emmanuel Foucault, a teacher from suburban Paris said. “In France we pay quite a lot of taxes, and we pay taxes for social security but we also pay taxes for our pensions. This is completely unfair.”



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