No let-up in French strikes as fresh travel turmoil hits weekend
Paris, France - The most serious nationwide strike to hit France in years caused new weekend travel turmoil on Saturday, with unions warning the walkouts would last well into next week.
The challenge thrown to President Emmanuel Macron over his plans for radical pension reform has seen hundreds of thousands take to the streets and key transport services brought to a standstill.
The strikes, which began on Thursday, have recalled the winter of 1995, when three weeks of huge stoppages forced a social policy U-turn by the then-government. Unions have vowed a second series of mass demonstrations nationwide on Tuesday after big rallies on Thursday and there is expected to be little easing of the transport freezes over the coming days.
The strikes could prove to be the biggest domestic challenge yet for Macron, who came to power in 2017 on the back of promises to radically reform France and has sought a prominent place on the international stage as Europe’s number one statesman.
Macron was widely believed to have ridden out the challenge posed by the ‘yellow vests’ whose weekly on Saturday protests against inequality in
France had shaken the government over the last year.
But the yellow vests have also sought to utilise the momentum of the strike movement and are expected to hold protests across France this Saturday. With Macron seeking for now to rise above the fray, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe insisted that the government would not abandon the plan even if it was prepared to bring it in more gradually.
He said the government would work with trade unions to introduce a single points-based pension scheme that would require the French to ‘work a bit longer’ and replace dozens of more advantageous plans currently enjoyed by public-sector workers.
Trucks block the A63 highway during a national strike called by the motor carrier union OTRE (Organisation des Transporteurs Routiers Europeens) between Castets and Lesperon, southwestern France on Saturday