World, Europe

Transit strike in France forges on

Union leaders and government officials to hold talks in effort to resolve ongoing pension disputes

Cindi Cook   | 07.01.2020
Transit strike in France forges on File photo


As the transport strike that has seized France enters its fifth week, a meeting of the minds on both sides will also take place in an effort to bring it to a close and get the country up and running again.

President Emmanuel Macron plans to meet with union and labor leaders Tuesday in an effort to resolve disputes over the national pension system and reach a compromise. In a comment on the ongoing discussions, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said "a compromise has never been so close."

Worker gripes and chaos notwithstanding, as of Monday, train traffic was improving across the country, with eight out of 10 high-speed trains running, according to the SNCF, the national state-owned railway company. Select metro stations remain closed; certain lines within Paris are open, but hours of service are limited.

Conductors and ticket booth operators among others who comprise the SNCF walked off the job on Dec. 5 in protest of Macron's proposed overhaul of the national pension system. Tuesday marks the 34th day of the strike, which has caused huge disruptions in the nation's capital.

Labor unions, like the hard-left CGT, have not let up over the holidays and are even calling for increased protests across France this week, such as those at oil depots and refineries. A mass protest is also planned for Thursday along with hospital workers, teachers and public sector workers.

The issue at hand is the financing of France's pension system and Macron's desire to raise the required retirement age for full pensions to 64 from 62. The fear of unions such as the CGT is that raising the age will cause workers to labor longer at lower pensions.

Macron did not shy away from discussing the subject in his New Year's Day address, telling the public of his strong desire to streamline the system -- presently categorized into 42 separate schemes -- into one. He also pledges that the new system will be fairer and financially sustainable.

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