Nationwide strike in France over pension reform; schools, transport disrupted

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Nationwide strike in France over pension reform; schools, transport disrupted

A nationwide strike is under way in France in a second wave of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Eight big unions are taking part in the strike, which is disrupting schools, public transport and oil refineries.

Protests are taking place across France, after a first day of action attracted more than a million people.

The unions said half the country’s teachers had joined the strike.

The education ministry said the number was just over a quarter.

The Macron government is pushing ahead with its pension age reforms in the face of opinion polls that suggest two-thirds of voters are opposed to the changes, which begin their passage through National Assembly next week.

Without a majority in parliament, the government will have to rely on the right-wing Republicans for support as much as the ruling parties’ own MPs.

Ahead of the main protest in Paris, thousands of marchers turned out in Toulouse, Marseille and Nice in the south, and Saint Nazaire, Nantes and Rennes in the west.

Street protests were expected in at least 200 towns and cities and a reported 11,000 police were deployed to cover the demonstrations.

In several cities, the numbers were said to be higher than during the first national strike 12 days ago. Thierry, 58, told Le Figaro that he had begun working at the age of 18 and felt that working even longer felt unfair.

“Mr Macron is certain to lose,” far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon told reporters in Marseille. “Nobody wants his reforms, and the more the days go by, by the greater the opposition to them.”

There was severe disruption to transport, with one in three high-speed trains running and only two driverless metro lines operating normally in Paris. Large crowds were reported on one of the main overground lines in the capital.

The CGT union said at least three-quarters of workers had walked out at the big TotalEnergies oil refineries and fuel depots, although the company said the number was far lower.

Power plants reported reduced production after workers went on strike at the main electricity company EDF.