Railway workers, teachers and emergency room medics launched one of the biggest public sector strikes in France for decades on Thursday, determined to force President Emmanuel Macron to abandon plans to overhaul France’s generous pension system.
Transport networks in Paris and cities across France ground to a near halt as unions dug in for a protest that threatens to paralyse France for days and poses the severest challenge to Macron’s reform agenda since “yellow vest” protests erupted.
Railway and metro stations in Paris were largely deserted during the early rush hour as commuters dusted off old bicycles, turned to carpooling rides or worked from home.
“What we’ve got to do is shut the economy down,” Christian Grolier, a senior official from the hard-left Force Ouvriere union, told Reuters. “People are spoiling for a fight.”
Airport workers, truck drivers, police and garbage collectors and others are all expected to join the strike at a time of widespread discontent towards Macron’s drive to make France’s economy more competitive and cut public spending.
Macron wants to simplify France’s unwieldy pension system, which comprises more than 40 different plans, many with different retirement ages and benefits. Macron says the system is unfair and too costly.