Trains and flights cancelled as French strikers increase pressure

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French train and metro drivers, refinery workers, rubbish collectors and others were holding further strikes on Wednesday against President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age to 64.

New protest actions focused on women – and the retirement reform’s impact on working mothers – are expected, to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Feminist activists see the pension reform as unfair to women, especially because they say it would further deepen gender inequalities faced during their career.

The continuing strikes and protest actions come after more than a million demonstrators marched in cities and towns across France on Tuesday, in what unions see as the biggest show of force against the planned changes since the beginning of the movement in January.

Unions demand the withdrawal of the reform. The bill is under debate in the Senate this week.

French strikes
Protesters march, with the Pantheon monument in background, during a demonstration in Paris (Aurelien Morissard/AP)

The SNCF rail authority said only one high-speed train in three was expected to be in service.

Trains to Spain have come to a halt and some cancellations affect those to and from the UK and Belgium.

A fifth of flights have been cancelled at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and about a third at Orly Airport.

Oil shipments in the country were halted for a second consecutive day amid strikes at the refineries of TotalEnergies and Esso ExxonMobil, according to the CGT union.

Strikes in Paris
Protesters march during a demonstration  in Pari (Aurelien Morissard/AP)

In addition, workers on strike were blocking access to ports in the western cities of Rouen and Le Havre.

Macron has vowed to go ahead with the bill, which he presents as key to his pro-businesses economic policies.

The reform would raise the minimum pension age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work to earn a full pension, amid other measures.

The government argues the system is expected to dive into deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.

Left-wing lawmakers say companies and the wealthy should pitch in more to finance the pension system.

Unions have called for a new day of nationwide demonstrations on Saturday.

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