Politics, World, Europe

France:Protestors clash with police over pension reform

Workers from different sectors stage walkout against controversial reform that reduces retirement pensions

Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak   | 05.12.2019
France:Protestors clash with police over pension reform


A clash between French police and demonstrators, who protested against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension plans, took place nationwide on Thursday, according to local media.

Nearly 200,000 people took part in the protests where clashes between with police, who used smoke bombs to disperse protestors, occurred. 

French national general strike day in Paris

PARIS, FRANCE - DECEMBER 05: A motor scooter has been set ablaze during a rally against the pension overhauls, in Paris, France on December 5, 2019 as part of a nationwide strike. - Trains cancelled, schools closed: France scrambled to make contingency plans on for a huge strike against pension overhauls that poses one of the biggest challenges yet to French President's sweeping reform drive. ( Dursun Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )

Police intervened in the demonstrations, with protestors setting fire to a cafe, traffic lights and electric motorcycles in Paris.

According to the workers' unions, the strike will continue until Monday, with local media reporting that a total of 70 people have been arrested so far.

Some 20% of flights have already been cancelled.

In a Twitter post, the Paris Police Department said that the police and gendarmerie conducted 6,476 checks and arrested 65 people.

The Gare du Nord, one of the stations of the SNCF railway network in Paris, was almost empty in the morning, according to France 24 broadcaster.

Protesters, however, started to come at the Gare du Nord in the afternoon to attend the main march to Place de la Nation square.

The protesters include police, healthcare professionals, teachers, lawyers, taxi and freight drivers, postal workers, farmers, civil servants, refinery workers and students, according to daily Le Monde.

Among the protesting people are employees of national carrier Air France, state-owned Parisian public transport operator RATP, electricity company EDF that is largely owned by the government, state-owned national railway firm SNCF, and automobile manufacturer Renault.

The "unlimited" strike impacted all public transport systems in the country, according to local media reports.

Some trains have been cancelled, while others have been operating at drastically reduced shifts.

Commuters preferred bikes or electronic scooters to go to work or stayed at home.

The strike could last for days and the outcome of it is still uncertain but it aims to halt the reform.

The walkout came after the government announced its determination to implement pension reform despite nationwide outcry.

According to France’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, Macron has further fueled the "sense of anger and rebellion" among French people against their president, with his economic policies that have given wealthy people a greater share of national income since his inauguration on May 17, 2017.

Macron has been facing the biggest crisis since the beginning of yellow vest protests in October last year. 

Proposed reform

France currently has 42 different pension programs for different sectors but the government proposed to unify those systems into one pension scheme.

France’s current program is based on the principle of solidarity between generations under which working population finance the pensioners of that year.

However, due to the aging population, fewer people are paying into the current system.

To fix this, the government introduced a point-based system that would compensate the workers with pension points for every day they work or every euro they contribute.

The reform would lift the privileges granted to civil servants and gradually increase the retirement age from 62 to 64, a move expected to adversely affect many sectors.

The workers will get full pension if they retire at the age of 64. If they retired before, they would lose 5% of their pensions for every year they retire early.

They would also gain 5% increase in their pensions for every year, if they retire after the age of 64.

Demonstrations and strikes have been supported by numerous labor and police unions, as well as yellow vests.

Macron paused his overseas visits for a while to focus on the solution of problems caused by strikes and demonstration

*Writing by Gozde Bayar

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