Commuters have been walking, cycling or taking scooters to try and get to and from work, while others were asked to work from home [Christian Hartmann/Reuters] A massive strike has brought much of Paris‘s public transport to a halt as unions protest pension reforms in the biggest transport strike in the city for more than a decade.
Ten of the city’s 16 metro lines closed on Friday, while buses and trams were also affected, prompting long queues of traffic in and around the French capital
Commuters have been walking, cycling or taking scooters to try and get to and from work, while others were asked to work from home.
The action was to protest sweeping reforms to France ‘s pension system, which President Emmanuel Macron says is costly for the French state and in dire need of an overhaul.
Macron has said the system is unfair because, while most people can retire at 62, some others – including transport workers – can do so at 55, necessitating that the system be standardised
The fight against the pension changes now includes plans for pilots, nurses and lawyers to strike and protest on Monday
Al Jazeera‘s Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said workers are worried that their pensions are going to be affected and that they will have to work for longer hours in the future.
“One woman told me that she is a metro train driver. She’s worked for the Paris transport system for 30 years and she says, ‘Look, when I went into it, I thought I was going to be guaranteed a certain pension’ and now she feels very uncertain about what the future holds,” Butler said
The pension changes are due to be formally presented and debated in Parliament next year, following a three-month consultation with unions and employers’ groups
It is hoped the consultation period will help to avoid the type of mass protests seen earlier this year with the “yellow vest” movement, which saw Macron accused of being “arrogant” and “out-of-touch”. But Butler said the road to pension reform will likely be a rocky one for the French government
“Pushing through any type of reform in France is never particularly easy, but especially this one, because most people are affected. Most French people have to pay into the French public pension system, there really aren’t private pension systems.
“Past presidents have tried to overhaul the pension system because it is so costly, but they have failed because they’ve been met with street demonstrations, so it’s unlikely to be an easy task for President Macron,” she said
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies