WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- France experiences widespread strikes and protests against proposed pension reforms.
- Riot police clash with demonstrators as protests continue for the sixth day nationwide.
- President Emmanuel Macron faces his biggest standoff with trade unions since coming to power.
France is experiencing widespread protests and strikes as citizens take to the streets to protest against the government’s proposed pension reforms. Riot police have been engaged in running battles with demonstrators across the country, with the worst of the violence taking place in Paris.
The Port Royal metro station has been the site of particularly intense clashes, with hundreds of riot police using tear gas and baton charges to try to contain the unrest. Protesters have set bins on fire, destroyed bus stops, and thrown projectiles at police officers.
The proposed pension reforms are designed to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, bringing France more in line with other European countries. The changes would also require 43 years of work to earn a full pension and abolish privileges enjoyed by some public-sector employees.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government has stated that the reforms are necessary to ensure the viability of the pension system, but many citizens are fiercely opposed to the changes.
The protests have been ongoing since mid-January and have resulted in numerous public services and businesses being shut down, including oil refineries. Transport workers have also been striking, leading to the cancellation of flights and disruption of fuel deliveries.
More than 60% of teachers in primary schools are expected to be on strike, as well as public sector workers in other areas. The protest movement is entering a new phase, with some unions calling for open-ended strikes in various sectors.
Opinion polls suggest that most French voters oppose the bill, with left-wing lawmakers calling for companies and the wealthy to contribute more to finance the pension system. Despite pressure piling on Macron’s government, it insists that the changes are necessary.
The proposed reforms could be adopted by parliament by the end of March, but it remains unclear whether they will be approved or if the government will have to use special constitutional powers to push them through.