FRANCE was totally paralysed yesterday with flights, trains, the Metro and buses all cancelled during the mass ‘Day of Rage’ over President Emmanuel Macron’s attack on public sector pensions.
After 13 days of strike action, Tuesday marked another round of street protests, including a major demo in Paris, with doctors, teachers and other public sector workers all joining in.
Unions called everyone out for the day of all-out protest with demonstrations in all the major cities across France in their continuing battle with the government over pension reform.
When the strike started on December 5th, French airspace controllers asked all airlines to cancel 20 per cent of their flights.
And yesterday, Paris Orly airport was hit hard with cancellations. Over 20 per cent of its flights were cancelled.
On the railways, train drivers and SNCF staff followed the call to join the protests and the trains were not running.
On the high speed TGV services there were just 25 per cent of services running – down from 33 per cent on Monday – and local TER services again saw just 30 per cent of services running. The worst hit was the Intercité lines, where just five per cent of trains ran (down from 16 per cent on Monday).
In Paris, public transport services almost ground completely to a halt.
On the Metro, eight lines – Lines 2, 3bis, 5, 6, 7bis, 10, 12 and 13 – remained completely closed.
Lines 1 and 14 – the automated lines – continued running while the remaining six lines – Lines 3, 4, 7, 8, 9 and 11 – offered an extremely limited service during rush hour only. On the tram network no lines were running a full service
There were massive protests in Paris with the ‘black bloc’ rioters clashing with the police.
Unions representing rail workers and teachers led the march through Paris, accompanied for the first time by the moderate union CFDT.
The CFDT decided to join the demos after, according to CFDT leader Laurent Berger, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe ‘crossed a red line’ in his speech last Wednesday when he set a new ‘pivot’ retirement age at 64.
In Paris, the march left from Place de la République at 1.30pm. The protesters crossed Bastille Square, then took Rue de Lyon and Avenue Daumesnil before ending up at Nation, in the far east of the city.
The Paris police ordered all stores and cafés on this route to close.
Unions are concerned at proposed reforms to the French pension system, which they say will leave people working longer for less money.
On Monday, the conflict was complicated further by the resignation of Jean-Paul Delevoye – appointed by Macron to oversee the pensions reform – over a scandal about undeclared private sector payments while he was earning a government salary.
The government has vowed to press on with the reforms regardless, and says Delevoye will be replaced soon.