Strikes Paralyze France for Fifth Consecutive Week

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PARIS – France is bracing for a national day of action on Thursday as the strike that has seriously hampered the country continues into its fifth week. The protest will involve thousands of transit workers, with the main gathering planned in Paris for early this afternoon, global news agencies reported.

Workers will also hold rallies in other major cities throughout the country, including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lille, Rennes, Lyon and other major cities. The unions have already called for another day of mobilization this Saturday.

Transport services, including metro and bus lines, within the Ile-de-France – the broader region around the capital city of Paris – have been critically affected by the protests. All metro lines will be open today, but most will offer reduced services, with peak hours being the priority.

Only a fifth of cross-country services and over half of high-speed trains will run on schedule, according to the railway authority SCNF. Suburban rail services will run, but only at one-third of their capacity. The strike started on December 5 in protest of the government’s planned overhaul of the nationwide pension system.

President Emmanuel Macron still insists on keeping true to his position that the 42 different plans currently in place need to be consolidated into one. Pension payouts in the new plan would be calculated from salaries from across a worker’s career instead of only the last five years.

The result, unions say, would be significantly reduced payouts for workers. Macron’s proposed plan would also phase out the early retirement advantages of certain sectors, primarily the civil service, by adjusting various “hardship” criteria.

Delays or cancellations involving today’s activity could also affect flights and maritime transport as a result of unions representing air traffic controllers and port workers joining in the strike. Some unions have also called for blockade operations at oil refineries.

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