France was left crippled today by the largest public sector strike since 1995. An estimated 250 protests took place throughout the country, as workers protested against Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron’s proposed pension scheme changes.
The changes would see workers waiting longer to retire and receiving less pension, which a number of trade unions regard as ‘unacceptable’.
Transport workers, hospital staff, teachers, firefighters and police joined the protests, amongst many other public sector workers.
France has the largest number of workers unions in Europe.
Only 10% of public transport was in operation, half of schools were closed, and hundreds of flights cancelled.
In Paris, police sectioned off the central business areas which remained like a ghost town. The underground Paris Metro rail system was at a virtual standstill.
The ‘Gilets Jaunes’ (Yellow Vests’), who have similarly wreaked havoc in protest action over general workers’ pay and conditions for almost a year also joined the protests.
Despite huge numbers turning out, the protests remained largely peaceful, but in Lyons and Nantes they quickly turned violent during the morning, with police firing tear gas.
This later spread to certain areas of Paris, with vehicles, street furniture and CCTV cameras being set on fire.
Government ministers attempted to reassure those involved that Macron would be detailing the pension reforms early next week.
The immediate problem for Macron is that these protests could go on for days.