A nation-wide strike in France, in which millions of transport workers, police and other professionals started a general walkout, has severely disrupted the country. Workers are holding demonstrations against pension reforms proposed by the French President Emmanuel Macron.
On the morning of December 5, transport networks were heavily hit by the strikes and reportedly, in some areas, it came to a near-halt. It has affected buses, trains and flights and the capital’s subway system faced major disruption. Several nurses and hospital staff also took part in the strike which has impacted emergency response services as they are running on thin staffing. The Eiffel tower has been shut down for the day and the authorities have warned the tourist to stay away from the global cultural symbol of France.
“I arrived at the airport this morning and I had no idea about the strike happening, and I was waiting for 2 hours at the airport for the train to arrive and it didn’t arrive,” said vacationer Ian Crossen, from New York. “I feel a little bit frustrated. And I’ve spent a lot of money. I’ve spent money I didn’t need to, apparently,” he added.
Some trade unions have even warned to continue industrial action until Macron announces reversal on his campaign promise. Macron wants to move away from the current system of dozens of pension schemes to a universal points-based pension system, aimed at rewarding employees based on their daily work. Unions are unhappy with the pension reforms since they are being forced to retire later or avail reduced pensions. The official retirement age in France is currently 62 but according to the new plan, anyone retiring before 64 will get a lower pension.
France has been facing various protests in recent times, especially from the yellow vest protesters who began a revolutionary movement in 2018 demanding economic justice. They have been demanding increment in minimum wages and protesting against tax burden, rising fuel prices and high cost of living. The protesters chose yellow vests as "a unifying thread and call to arms” since these are accessible, cost-effective, convenient, and associated with working-class industries.
(With Inputs from Agencies)