Europe Headline News

France at standstill as workers protest new retirement age

Fuel deliveries have been blocked from all French refineries, according to union officials, as protesters aim to bring France to a standstill over plans to raise the pension age from 62 to 64.

“The strike has begun everywhere,” said Eric Sellini of the CGT union.

Tuesday marked the sixth day of strikes and protests since mid-January, with unions saying it would be the biggest yet.

Most train and metro services have been canceled, and many schools closed.

According to BBC, At least 260 demonstrations are expected across France on Tuesday, with police estimates of between 1.1 million and 1.4 million taking part.

With the government showing no sign of backing down on its pension plan, one union leader, Emmanuel Lépine, said last week that the aim of blocking fuel deliveries was to “bring the French economy to its knees”.

Analysts say the unions and France’s political left know that time is running out before the reform becomes a reality, which is all the more reason for them to up the pressure now.

President Emmanuel Macron has called the reform “essential” because of deficits forecast for the country’s pension system over the next 25 years, according to analysis by the independent Pensions Advisory Council.

As well as raising the pension age by two years, the government says workers would have to contribute for 43 years into France’s shared pension fund before earning a full pension.

Very few French workers have personal pensions linked to capital investments.

Neighboring European economies have already raised the retirement age in recent years to reflect longer life expectancy. 

Italy, Germany and Spain have moved towards raising the official retirement age to 67, while in the UK, it is currently 66.

According to opinion polls, 56% of people support rolling strikes and 59% back the call to bring the country to a standstill.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; Editing by Tony Okerafor