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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - France faces crippling Christmas transport disruption after the leaders of nationwide protests against controversial pension reforms refused to back a truce.
Strikes that hit the country on December 5 have devastated the public transport system and forced millions to source alternative ways to travel.
A statement by some of the major unions claimed they were “supported by a growing majority of the population demand that the government completely withdraw the plan without delay”.
“If it is not pulled, there will be no truce,” they said. Not all unions are threatening to strike over Christmas.
In Paris, only half of the 16 metro lines were running Wednesday, with most of the rest offering limited services.
The national rail operator has promised a seat for each passenger who bought a holiday ticket on high-speed trains for the weekend although many will face time and date changes, and disruptions are still expected on regional lines. The Eurostar has also had its services slashed.
The government wants to work out a truce before Christmas or risk inflaming an already angry public.
President Emmanuel Macron says he will not abandon the pension plans, which include merging 42 separate pension regimes into one universal points-based system and encouraging people to work until 64 rather than the legal requirement age of 62, although he had suggested they could be improved.
Train drivers for the state company can retire just after 50 and enjoy more pensions that private sector workers.
Philippe Martinez, head of France’s CGT union, said the government needed to pull its plans and “seriously” contemplate how they could improve the pension system.
When asked earlier this week if transport could be disrupted at Christmas, he said: “Today I cannot tell you. The question should be put to the Prime Minister and to the President of the Republic.”
“When all the unions say ‘We do not want this reform’, the government should have a rethink,” said told demonstrators. “They need to open their eyes and unblock their ears.”
Updated: December 18, 2019 06:37 PM
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