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National strike over pension age rise affects French businesses

National strike over pension age rise affects French airports, schools, and oil refineries. 

Workers in France conducted a nationwide strike on Thursday in protest of a rise in the retirement age that was forced through parliament without a vote, causing significant disruption to schools, oil refineries, and transportation networks across the country. 

Although there had been intermittent protests after the French government rammed the measure through last week, Thursday was the first day of planned action since then. The law was introduced in January, and today marks the ninth day of strikes. 

In Paris, just two of the fourteen metro lines were providing regular service. Only half of the high-speed TGV trains were operating, and RER rail services that serve the city and its suburbs were drastically cut back. In Paris Orly airport, 30% of flights were impacted as a result of the nationwide strike. 

According to a government spokesperson, unionized employees reportedly blockaded two significant oil refineries in France’s south, one in Fos-sur-Mer and one in Normandy. 

The minister of energy transformation, Agnès Pannier-Runacherin, stated in a statement: “We are intervening in a targeted manner to unlock oil storage tanks that are blocked by demonstrators.” 

“Blockading is not a constitutionally protected right, if the strike is one… In spite of the challenging circumstances, I fully support the cops. 

According to the government spokeswoman, the government has extended its requisition order mandating that employees report to work at the two blockaded refineries. 

There was a strong backlash to the government’s decision to extend the retirement age for the majority of workers by two years. Yet, President Emmanuel Macron’s administration remained steadfast in the face of rallies that attracted over a million people to the country’s streets. This Monday, it used a constitutional provision that permits the government to veto a vote to force the measure through the French National Assembly. 

Since they were implemented following World War II, the nation has taken pride in its generous pension plan and early retirement policy. The retirement age for the majority of workers under the new law will be 64, which is still among the lowest in the industrialized world. 

The civil aviation authority reported that kerosene stocks at Charles De Gaulle airport, which serves Paris, were “under strain,” while those at Orly airport were being watched, as a result of the refinery strikes. 

A Charles de Gaulle airport official told CNN that earlier in the day, some 70 demonstrators had blocked terminal one. 

The education ministry of France estimates that 20% of teachers who work in public schools also participated in the strikes. The retirement reform has been justified by Macron and his administration as being necessary to maintain the pension system’s funding. The benefits of retirees are paid for by taxes on working people, and as more baby boomers retire and people live longer, the system will eventually collapse without these taxes, but the threat is not immediate. 

The administration claimed that the adjustments were required at the time the proposal was published in January to stop a projected 13.5 billion euro ($14.7 billion) gap from developing in the pension system by 2030. 

In an interview with two of the major television networks in France on Wednesday, Macron stated that the bill ought to become law by the end of the year. He also argued that, despite its unpopularity, the reform had to be pushed through because it was financially imperative. 

“It’s in the best interests of the nation overall. “When given the choice between the national interest and opinion polls, I picked the latter,” stated Macron.

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