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17.12.2019 Europe

More than half a million rally in France against Macron's pension reforms

By Paul Myers - RFI
REUTERS/Jean-Michel Belo
LISTEN DEC 17, 2019
REUTERS/Jean-Michel Belo

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of France on Tuesday in the latest show of strength against the government's plans for pension reforms.

The CGT, one of the unions organising the rally in the capital, claimed 350,000 demonstrators had gathered for a march through Paris out of 1.8 million nationwide.

However, the interior ministry put the figure at 76,000 in Paris while an assessment agency used by the media said there were 72,500 protesters in the capital.

In one incident, an officer was injured and 13 people were arrested in scuffles with the activist group black bloc near the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris.

According to the interior ministry, 615,000 congregated throughout the country against proposals to push through a single points-based pension system and end the 42 separate schemes that offer early retirement to many in the public sector.

New deal
The government says the new system will be fairer and more transparent. They claim it will improve pensions for women and low earners.

"My determination, and that of the government and the majority, is total," prime minister Edouard Philippe told parliament on Tuesday ahead of new talks with unions.

Critics of the plans say the changes could force millions of people to work beyond the official retirement age of 62 - one of the lowest in Europe - by setting a "pivot age" of 64 that would ensure a full pension.

"What scares us about the points system is that we don't know how much a point is worth," said Kelly Grosset-Curtet, a 21-year-old student marching in Lyon. "It seems that it's a way of separating the good pensioners from the bad ones."

Transport unions said they would maintain a 14th day of action on Wednesday against the pension reforms. More than half of Paris's metro lines have been shut during the strike. Bus and regional rail services have also been severely affected.

With schools and colleges scheduled to break up for Christmas holidays on 20 December, rail network chiefs on Tuesday announced their plans to move nearly one million travellers around France over the first weekend of the festivities.

Rachel Picard, director general of Voyages SNCF, said just over 50 percent of passengers with reservations would be able to reach their destination on their scheduled trains.

She said another 15 percent would be placed on a train leaving at some point during the same day.

However she conceded that more than 200,000 travellers might not fare so well. They would have to change their tickets for trains heading in the direction of their original destination.

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