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France braces for traffic chaos as workers protest against Macron's pension reform

Christian Fernsby |
French commuters will face travel misery on Thursday as rail and metro workers will go on strike with which labor unions eye to show enough force to make President Emmanuel Macron reconsider his pension reform.

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Topics: FRANCE    TRAFFIC    CHAOS    WORKERS   MACRON    PENSION    REFORM   

"Thursday will be extremely difficult. The networks will be badly disturbed. We will only succeed to operate about 10 percent of the trains," Agnes Ogier, national rail operator SNCF's spokesperson told a press conference on Tuesday.

"We ask our clients to cancel their trips or postpone them if they can," she added

On "black Thursday," only one in 10 high-speed trains is operational and only 10 percent of regional trains are expected to run.

Around half of Eurostar frequencies are cancelled and only one in three Thalys trains between Paris and Brussels will operate, according to SNCF.

The Paris metro is also bracing traffic gridlock, with 11 of the city's 16 lines closed on Dec. 5.

A disruption is also expected in the air. Air controllers will join the strike call on Thursday, forcing the country's DGAC civil aviation authority to cancel 20 percent of the flights.

Flag carrier Air France planned to suspend a quarter of its scheduled domestic flights and 15 percent of mid-range flights to destinations outside the country.

In one of his major campaign promises, Macron proposes to merge the variety of 42 different pension set-ups for different professions into a universal system.

The new single regime would use points so that each euro paid in would give the same retirement benefits no matter what sector pensioners worked in.

It would only apply to workers born after 1963 and only take effect gradually from 2025 in order to bring the pension system into balance.

Unions say that would effectively force people to work longer, in particular public sector workers that have been allowed to retire earlier often because of hard working conditions.

Widely seen as a taboo, pension overhaul had failed during the previous governments.

A recent Viavoice survey showed that 56 percent of French people backed anti-pension reform strike.


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