Millions of French on strike: strikes impede international traffic

Status: 03/08/2023 3:09 p.m

In France, the protests against the planned pension reform continue: Massive strikes paralyzed some train, air and shipping traffic. German ports are also affected.

Millions of people took to the streets in France again. The protests against the planned pension reform continue to disrupt public transport across the country. Workers from many areas went on strike. The French unions want to keep up the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron with further strikes. A protest march is planned in Paris in the afternoon.

In the morning, the train and subway traffic in Paris was still disrupted. There are no more trains to Spain, the connections to Great Britain and Belgium are partially canceled. A fifth of flights were canceled at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and around a third at Orly Airport.

German ports do not receive goods

The entire international shipping traffic on the Franco-German Rhine route to Basel has come to a standstill because the locks on strike are in French hands, the Upper Rhine Waterways and Shipping Office said. All traffic to Switzerland via the Rhine line was interrupted as a result.

German ports such as Breisach or Weil am Rhein are also affected. As a result of the strikes, ships in the area would no longer be able to proceed, meaning that recipients in the ports would not receive their goods.

“We will not allow the country to be paralyzed”

The French refineries are currently continuing to produce petrol and diesel, but are unable to supply the petrol stations due to the blockades. The CGT union announced that the delivery of fuel would continue to be blocked. So far there is no shortage of fuel.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune threatened coercive measures. “We will not allow the country to be paralyzed,” he told broadcaster LCI. “We have legal means to intervene,” he said.

Liquid gas terminals and several gas depots were also further blocked. In Marseille, seafarers prevent access to the port. Garbage collection in Paris also continued the strike.

Unions speak of “historic participation”

According to official figures, 1.28 million people took to the streets nationwide on Tuesday. At the end of January it was 1.27 million. The unions spoke of 3.5 million demonstrators. This is a “historic participation”.

The government accuses the unions of not showing themselves willing to talk. “The government’s door is wide open when the unions, which have shown no interest for weeks, seek dialogue again,” government spokesman Olivier Véran told RTL.

The unions, in turn, called for an “urgent meeting” with President Emmanuel Macron and announced further strike days next Saturday and Wednesday.

A decision might be made as early as next week

The French Senate is discussing the draft pension reform again this week. “We are aware that the efforts demanded by the French do not have the support of a majority,” said government spokesman Véran. However, the government is convinced that the alternatives – tax increases, increasing public debt and pension cuts – would not receive more support.

Parliament may be able to pass the pension reform as early as next Thursday with the votes of the ruling Renaissance party and the conservative Republicans.

Reform disadvantages women in particular

The core of the reform is the increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 and the requirement of 43 years of work to receive a full pension. The French government wants people to work longer to prevent a deficit in the pension fund.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in France people retire on average at the age of 60, and the average life expectancy is 80 years.

Feminists see the reform as particularly disadvantageous for women, who often find it more difficult to collect the necessary professional years because of child-rearing. The reform threatens to deepen gender inequality in professional life.

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