Nationwide strikes in France as protesters halt trains and disrupt energy supplies | World News

Protesters in France are blocking high-speed trains and disrupting electricity supplies in nationwide strikes against the country’s pension age reform.

Most trains across the country have been cancelled, while electricity workers have vowed to cut power supplies in protest, with more than 200 rallies expected across the country today.

The strikes were sparked by a proposed bill to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, which would mean more people would have to work longer before receiving a pension.

Unions argue that pension reform threatens hard-fought rights and propose a tax on rich or high payroll contributions from employers to fund the pension system.

Employees of other sectors including transport, education and energy are participating in the strike.

National state-owned railway company SNCF said French trains were affected as well as some international connections.

Around 20% of flights from Orly airport in Paris have been canceled and airlines are warning of delays.

Figures from utility group EDF and grid operator RTE show electricity generation is about 12 percent short of total electricity supply, prompting France to increase imports from neighboring countries.

A placard of Emmanuel Macron was seen at a demonstration.
A placard of Emmanuel Macron was seen at a demonstration.

In Paris, students closed at least one high school in support of strike action. About 65% of high school teachers went on strike, the SNES FSU union said.

Police unions opposed to retirement reforms are also taking part, with those on duty bracing for possible violence if extremist groups join the protests.

The proposed bill has also been criticized by workers who are already facing a life-saving crisis, but French President Emmanuel Macron has said reform is the only way to fix the state pension system.

The government is officially presenting the pension bill on Monday.

Demonstrators take part in a protest against the French government's pension reform plan in Saint-Nazaire.
A man walks on an empty platform at the Gare Montparnasse railway station.
A man walks on an empty platform at the Gare Montparnasse railway station.

The changes will mean that workers must have worked for at least 43 years to be entitled to a full pension.

For those who do not meet this condition, like many women who interrupted their careers to raise their children, the retirement age will remain at 67.

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Those who started working early, under the age of 20, and workers with major health problems will be allowed early retirement.

The prolonged strikes met Mr Macron’s last-ditch attempt to raise the retirement age in 2019, but he eventually withdrew it after the COVID pandemic took its toll.

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