Published On: Thu, Dec 19th, 2019

Unions say ‘no truce’ from French transport strikers over Christmas holidays

French protesters and strikers intend to keep up their fight against President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension reform plans over the Christmas period, despite efforts by the government to quell social tensions.

A coalition of unions led by the hardline CGT trade union said Thursday that there will be “no truce” from strikers over the Christmas holidays and announced a new planned day of action for January 9. 

The decision to call for more strikes came after the unions met with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe to discuss the sweeping plans, which the government claims will simplify a complicated system, but which protesters say encourages people to work longer and for less money. The PM “hasn’t heard what the street is saying,” said CGT union leader Philippe Martinez.

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Protests against the new pension reform plans have escalated into violent clashes as demonstrators hurled projectiles and police deployed tear gas into crowds.

French transport has been crippled by two weeks of union action, with the system grinding to a halt on Monday as workers at the state-run bus and rail companies continued their strike, erecting flaming barricades of shopping trolleys and dumpsters.

Macron has been reluctant to give in to protesters’ demands, but his office said Wednesday that while he is not going to “abandon” the plan, he is “willing to improve” some parts — the first indication that he may be willing to concede ground.

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Speaking after talks with unions on Thursday, the PM said there had been “progress” in the last few days, but that the government remains fully committed to its plans and that the new law will be voted on before summer. Philippe called on unions to cease their strikes to allow French people to travel to see their families at Christmas.

France’s High Commissioner for Pensions Jean-Paul Delevoye — the official in charge of overseeing the controversial reforms — resigned Monday amid mass strikes and his own personal financial scandal. Delevoye reportedly failed to disclose income received from other sources while maintaining his role in the cabinet.

The more moderate CFDT union said Thursday that it is not calling for strikes on January 9, but added that it still disagreed with the government’s plan to incentivize people to work until 64 to receive a full pension instead of the legal retirement age of 62.

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