French strike against pension reform enters day two

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A strike that crippled public transport and closed schools across France entered a second day on Friday, with trade unions saying they planned to keep going until President Emmanuel Macron backs down from a planned reform of pensions.

The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who came to power in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful trade unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

Rail workers voted to extend their strike through Friday, while labour unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. Other trade unionists were due to decide early on Friday how long they would keep up the strike.

National strike in France
 French riot police clash with protesters during a demonstration against pension reforms Paris, France, 05 December 2019. EPA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON

The industrial action already on Thursday brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets in Paris and forced the closure of parts of the Louvre Museum, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”.

Union leaders were buoyed by the proportion of healthcare staff, railway workers and teachers who heeded the strike call, and by the numbers who showed up at an anti-government march in Paris and other French cities.

Police said 65,000 marched in Paris, while 806,000 took part in protests nationwide. Union leaders put the numbers higher.

Police used tear gas in central Paris on Thursday afternoon when protesters on the fringes of the trade unions’ march threw fireworks at officers, ransacked bus stops, and set fire to rubbish bins.

Via France 24

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