Thank you for your reading and interest in the news Strike woes continue as Macron stands by pension reforms and now with details
Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - France is facing continued chaos after unions opposed to President Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious proposal to overhaul the country’s pension system dug in ahead of fresh talks with the government.
Two weeks into a crippling transport strike, President Macron is trying to turn the country’s numerous pension systems into a single points-based one.
Critics say the pensions overhaul could force millions of people to work beyond the official retirement age of 62 - one of the lowest in Europe - by setting a "pivot age" of 64 for a full pension.
The government insists the new system will be fairer and more transparent, improving pensions for women and low earners in particular.
"My determination, and that of the government and the majority, is total," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told parliament on the eve of the new round of talks.
President Emmanuel Macron's office insisted on Wednesday that he would not drop the plan, but was "willing to improve" some elements.
Mr Macron added that hoped talks with union leaders would allow "a pause" in the strike so people can travel for the holidays, the official added.
A group of unions including the CGT – France’s second largest – said there would be no truce over the Christmas period unless the proposals were dropped.
Late on Tuesday, the CGT, backed by three other unions, decided to continue the strike action which has severely disrupted public transport in major cities, hobbled regional and international trains, and even grounded planes.
On Wednesday, the CGT was forced to defend the decision to cut power to thousands of homes.
Mr Macron’s government has condemned the power cuts, which hit at least 150,000 homes on Tuesday according to the French power grid.
"I hear they're cutting power to CAC 40 companies, prefectures, shopping malls. That's already rather questionable," transport minister Elisabeth Borne said, referring to an index of companies on the French stock market.
"But clinics, metro stations, fire brigades and thousands of French people also saw power cuts. This is far from normal ways of striking," she said.
Speaking on French radio, Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union, defended the power cuts saying they were necessary to force Macron to back down.
"These are targeted cuts," the union leader said. "You'll understand that spitting on the public service can make some of us angry."
About 615,000 people took part in more than 100 rallies countrywide on Tuesday, according to the interior ministry. The CGT 's own figures put the number of demonstrators three times higher.
Police fired tear gas in Paris after protesters hurled projectiles, and arrested 30 people in the French capital.
The strikes are still supported by a narrow majority of the French population, according to an Ifop poll published on Sunday.
Mr Macron’s approval rating climbed two points but now sits on 30 per cent as he faces down the most significant domestic challenge to his reformist agenda since the Yellow Vest movement erupted in 2018.
Updated: December 18, 2019 07:17 PM
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