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23 Mar, 2023 17:09

France rocked by nationwide strikes over pension reform

Protests over the government plan to raise the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62 show no sign of receding
France rocked by nationwide strikes over pension reform

French unions staged more strikes on Thursday to protest against an increase in the retirement age that was pushed through parliament without a vote.

According to media reports, transport networks, oil refineries and schools were all hit by widespread disruption. Demonstrators blocked access to an airport terminal, sat on train tracks, and clashed with police across the country.

In central Paris, police reportedly used tear gas after protesters threw projectiles and set bins ablaze. Tear gas was also fired at protesters in several other cities, including Nantes and Bordeaux. In Rennes, police officers used water cannons.

“There is a lot of anger, an explosive situation,” the leader of the CGT union, Philippe Martinez, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Meanwhile, Minister for Energy Transition Agnes Pannier-Runacher stated that the government would intervene “in a targeted manner to unblock oil storage tanks that are blocked by demonstrators.” 

“If the strike is a fundamental constitutional right, blockading is not one… The police are mobilized in difficult conditions and have my full support,” she said.

While protests have been ongoing for two months since the government unveiled the pension proposal in January, Thursday marked the first day of coordinated action. It followed Macron breaking weeks of silence on the new policy to say he would not back down and the law would come into force by the end of the year.

Macron and his government have defended the retirement reform as necessary to keep the pension system funded, claiming it would otherwise eventually go bankrupt.

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