Nationwide protests in France over pension plans

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Rail workers, teachers, doctors, lawyers and others have joined a nationwide day of protests and strikes in France to denounce President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the pension system.

As the government and unions pushed on with crucial negotiations about the changes, street protests were staged in Paris and other French cities, with railway strikes entering their sixth week.

The Paris march started from the Republique square in central Paris amid a large police presence.

The Elysee presidential palace was barricaded as protesters were due to head towards the area.

Strikers march on the Place de la Bastille during a demonstration in Paris

The Eiffel Tower was shut as employees joined the protest movement.

Paris metro traffic was severely disrupted, except for two automatic lines running normally.

The national rail company SNCF said about one third of workers were on strike on Thursday.

Three high-speed trains out of five were running.

Regional trains were also affected and many schools were closed.

Unions have also called on workers to block road access to major ports, including in the southern city of Marseille.

Philippe Martinez, head of hard-left CGT union, said “there are many people on strike” yet the government does not appear “willing to discuss and take into account the opinion of unions”.

Talks between the government and labour unions resumed on Tuesday but no compromise has been reached yet.

A new round of negotiations focusing on the financing of the new pension system is scheduled for Friday.

Mr Macron has asked his government to find a quick compromise with reform-minded unions.

So far, the government is sticking to its plan to raise the full retirement age from 62 to 64, the most criticised part of the proposals.

The changes aim to unify France’s 42 different pension schemes into a single one.

Under specific pension schemes, some people, like railway workers, are allowed to take early retirement.

Others, like lawyers and doctors, pay less tax.

Unions fear people will have to work longer for lower pensions, and polls suggest at least half of French people still support the strikes.

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