More than 250 protests have been staged in the French capital Paris and around the country against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms with rubbish collectors, utility workers, train drivers and others walking off the job against the proposed legislation.
An estimated 1.28 million people demonstrated nationwide on Tuesday against Macron’s plans to push back the retirement age to 64, the interior ministry said. The protests come weeks after an estimated 1.27 million people participated during the previous round of protests.
Big crowds took to the streets in Paris, Marseille, Nice and other cities. Some minor clashes with police broke out in Nantes, Rennes and Lyon.
In the French capital, workers, families and activists gathered in a joyful atmosphere, chanting slogans.
Despite the Paris march being largely peaceful, some scuffles sporadically broke out on the sidelines, with some people throwing projectiles at police who responded with tear gas.
Unions threatened to freeze up the French economy with work stoppages across multiple sectors, most visibly an open-ended strike at the SNCF national rail authority.
Some unions have called for open-ended strikes in sectors from refineries and oil depots to electricity and gas facilities. Workers in each sector will decided locally in the evening on that, Martinez said.
All oil shipments in the country were halted on Tuesday amid strikes at the refineries of TotalEnergies, Esso-ExxonMobil and Petroineos groups, according to the CGT.
Truckers have sporadically blocked major highway arteries and interchanges in go-slow actions near several cities in French regions.
A fifth of flights were cancelled at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport and about a third of flights at Orly Airport. Trains to Germany and Spain were expected to come to a halt, and those to and from the United Kingdom and Belgium will be reduced by a third, according to the SNCF rail authority.
Most high-speed trains and regional trains have been cancelled.
Public transportation and other services were disrupted in most French cities. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed, as was the Palace of Versailles, west of the capital.
According to the education ministry, about one-third of teachers were on strike nationwide.
The reform would raise the minimum pension age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work by 2030 to earn a full pension, amid other measures. The government has argued that the system is expected to dive into deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.
The bill is under debate in the French Senate this week.