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Unions are intensifying their fight against pension reform, and strikes against it will continue in France


France was partly brought to a standstill on Tuesday as millions of protesters took to the streets in one of the biggest strike actions yet. Rejecting the government’s proposed pension reform bill, which includes raising the legal retirement age from 62 to 64, workers across all sectors turned out in force to show their disapproval in nationwide demonstrations. Follow our blog to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

9:12pm: France to carry on strikes 

VIDEO: French strikes against pension reform to continue as unions intensify fight • FRANCE 24 English
FRANCE 24 English

Strikes against the government's pension reform bill are to continue until the latter is withdrawn, trade unions said.

The CGT union said workers had voted to prolong strikes at all TotalEnergies sites.

7:58pm: 3.5 million workers on strike across France, trade unions say

VIDEO: France hit by nationwide strike as unions fight government's pension reforms
CBC News

Tuesday saw up to 3.5 millon protesters in the streets across the nation according to the CGT trade union.

Meanwhile figures provided by the government show 1.2 millon.

Looking to pile pressure on lawmakers, France's more hardline unions said there would be rolling strikes which could go on for days, at least in some sectors.

The CGT union said workers had voted to prolong strikes at all TotalEnergies sites.

Trains will continue to be disrupted on Wednesday, as will the Paris metro system, though to a slightly lesser degree than on Tuesday, the SNCF and RATP transportation companies running them said.

Union leaders said will meet in the evening to decide on further steps.

The CFDT, now France's biggest trade union and generall reform-minded, has not committed to the rolling strikes and has said there could be other forms of protest.

6:55pm: Around '700,000 protesters' in Paris demonstrations 

VIDEO: Unions vow to continue ‘unlimited’ strikes against pension reform • FRANCE 24 English
FRANCE 24 English

There were around 700,000 protesters in Paris demonstrations today, according to the CGT trade union. The Paris police put the number of demonstrators at 81,000.  

Reporting from Paris's Place d'Italie, the final destination of protesters, FRANCE 24’s Liza Kaminov said the mood is changing. 

Watch the report in the video below:

© France 24

6:28pm: French refining sites are 'blocked'

VIDEO: France pension reform: Unions set for new round of nationwide strikes
Al Jazeera English

France's eight refining sites are 'all blocked', reports FRANCE 24's Science Editor Shirli Sitbon. 

Despite continuous production, protesters have shut the gates to refining sites and "will not let the fuel leave", she said.

Meanwhile three out of France's four liquefied natural gas terminals are blocked while output from the country's nuclear plants has also been cut.

Warning of potential shortages if the strikes were to continue, Sitbon nevertheless said the impact may "not be as drastic" as it was during former strikes as more people are working from home.

Watch the report in the video below:

SCIENCE

SCIENCE © FRANCE 24

5:25pm: 'The mood is one of defiance and one of hope', says FRANCE 24’s Liza Kaminov

VIDEO: French unions strike over Macron's pension reform
NBC News

Reporting from the streets of Paris where a national strike is currently taking place, FRANCE 24’s Liza Kaminov noted a general atmosphere of hope and determination.

People from all sectors and generations have turned out for the protests as Kaminov pointed to a mix of "elderly, youth, family", as well as "people coming from the education sector, from the pharmaceutical sector, from the metal industry and also from the aeronautics sector".

Kaminov also interviewed a PHD student in social sciences, who highlighted the impact of the pension reform bill on the younger generation and on women.

Watch the report in the video below:

French pension standoff: Union stage mass protests over controversial reform

French pension standoff: Union stage mass protests over controversial reform © France 24

3:22pm: High turnout for Paris strike

VIDEO: France: Trains halted, schools shut as unions fight against reform • FRANCE 24 English
FRANCE 24 English

FRANCE 24’s Liza Kaminov is reporting from the streets of Paris, where protesters have gathered to express their disapproval of the government’s pension reform plan.

"The turnout is high, and is perhaps even higher than the January 31st protest," Kaminov said. "Police are saying that in Paris alone there are about 60,000 to 90,000 protestors, but as we're walking with the crowd this number seems to be increasing."

Despite the various challenges of continuous striking, protesters are determined to "bring the economy to its knees and to bring the country to a halt”, she said.

Watch the report in the video below:

1:58pm: Inequality for women key part of pension reform debate

VIDEO: Shocking moment Paris police drag France pension reform protester along the ground
Daily Mail

French women, whose pensions are already 40 percent lower than those of men, have been said to be the biggest losers under the new pension reform. This is because women are more likely to take time out of their careers to care of their children and other family members and therefore earn their right to full retirement later.

In the clip below, FRANCE 24’s show France in Focus takes a look at the inequality of French pensions:

FRANCE IN FOCUS

FRANCE IN FOCUS © FRANCE 24

12:48pm: Teachers on strike

VIDEO: Fed-up pension protesters clash with police across France: "We're not here to die on the job"
Global News

Unions have estimated that 60 percent of the country’s teachers walked out of their jobs Tuesday, while the education ministry has put that number at around 30 percent.

12:23pm: Paris standstill ‘a little bit nerve-wracking’, tourist says

VIDEO: France pension reform protesters clash with riot police - BBC News
BBC News

FRANCE 24’s reporter Clovis Casali is reporting from the Saint-Lazare train station in central Paris, where tourists and commuters alike are experiencing major disruptions to their travel plans this Tuesday.

One tourist he spoke to, described the disruptions as “a little bit nerve-wracking”. He also spoke to a French woman who said she had not experienced any delays in her early morning commute, but added that the strikes “need to continue”.

Watch the interviews in the clip below:

11:23am: Protest marches from Nice to Reims

VIDEO: France protests: French riot police attack protesters with batons amid pension reform announcement
Daily Mail

Protest marches have already gotten under way in several  cities, from Nice, in the south, to Reims, in the northeast.

10:46am: Rubbish bin collectors in Paris on strike since Monday

VIDEO: Macron tells teen to call him 'Mr President' - BBC News
BBC News

Bin collectors in Paris began their strike action already on Monday and the streets of the French capital have already started to pile up with hundreds of tons of rubbish.

10:38am: Why the French take their retirement so seriously

VIDEO: French MPs sing Marseillaise and boo as PM forces through pension reform bill
Guardian News

Speaking to FRANCE 24, François Geerolf, an economist at Sciences Po in Paris, explains why the French take their retirement so seriously, noting that the country’s famed 35-hour work week is far from a reality for many of the country’s white-collar workers.

Watch his full explanation in the video below:

10:19am: Rolling strikes

VIDEO: France: police clash with protesters demanding pension reform reversal
Guardian News

Ahead of the March 7 strikes, major confederations of French trade unions – including the CFDT and CGT – announced they would stage ‘’grèves reconductibles’, or rolling strikes, meaning workers will vote at the end of each strike day on whether to continue industrial action. This means the strikes have no end date, and could go on for days, or even weeks.

9:32am: Major train and flight disruptions

VIDEO: Clashes at rally against pension bill in France
Reuters

Trains to Germany and Spain are expected to come to a halt Tuesday, and those to and from Britain will be reduced by a third, according to the SNCF rail authority.

In France, only one in five regional and high-speed trains are expected to run, while RATP, the public transport operator for the Ile-de-France region around Paris, has said metro lines and suburban trains will also be heavily disrupted, with some metro lines running only at peak hours.

Around a fifth of flights have been canceled at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and about a third of flights at Orly Airport.

9:05am: Roads, fuel deliveries blocked

VIDEO: Fire and blood: young protesters out in force | France dispatch
The Telegraph

Already in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the protests were already being felt in France, with reports of protesters blocking several roads.

According to the public road information service a national road in the city of Rennes had been blocked by around 100 protesters since 1am.

In a a tweet, the hardline CGTunion said: “On the roads of Rennes, at the port of Gennevilliers, on the roundabouts of Rouen, in the power stations: the vigil of the March 7 strike has already begun.”

Fuel deliveries from refineries across France also came to a standstill. “The strike has begun everywhere... with deliveries blocked from all the refineries this morning,” said Eric Sellini, branch coordinator for CGT, which had launched a similar blockade last autumn that eventually saw petrol stations running out of fuel.

9:00am: More than a million expected to hit the streets

VIDEO: Mass strikes spark shutdowns in France as pension age protesters rally | ITV News
ITV News

Between 1.1 and 1.4 million people are expected to hit the streets Tuesday in more than 260 locations nationwide, according to a police source cited by AFP.

The upper limit of that range would mean stronger opposition than during the five previous days of rallies that have taken place since mid-January.

On January 31, on the biggest day of demonstrations so far, 1.27 million people demonstrated.

Sources


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