New strikes and protests sweep France as government unveils retirement bill

Protesters with flares stand on a vandalized car during a blockade of the port of Marseille in southern France on Thursday.
(Associated Press)

French unions were holding last-ditch strikes and protests around the country Friday as the government unveiled a divisive bill redesigning the national retirement system.

Travelers faced renewed disruptions on regional trains and the Paris subway, and some schools and other public services also faced walkouts. However, Friday’s transportation troubles weren’t nearly as paralyzing as earlier in the 50-day-old strike movement.

The number of striking workers and halted trains dropped considerably this week after the government made a series of concessions. But unions hope Friday’s actions will revive opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s signature reform.


His government is moving ahead with the plan anyway, presenting it at a Cabinet meeting Friday. Then it goes to Parliament, where Macron’s centrist party has a large majority.

The plan will streamline France’s 42 retirement systems into a single points-based system for all workers, public and private sector alike, and abolish special provisions allowing certain workers to retire as early as their 50s. It will also introduce a minimum pension.

However, the government backed down on plans to raise the age to receive a full pension from 62 to 64, and negotiated deals with various sectors — including pilots, members of the military and police — who will still be able to retire earlier than others.

The new points system, which will only affect those born after 1974, would gradually come into place starting in 2022.

Many details remain undecided and will be announced by the government later.

Macron argues that the old system is unfair, outdated and too costly for a country with growing life expectancy. Unions say the new plan threatens hard-won workers rights.