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Published: 14:34, February 07, 2023 | Updated: 21:02, February 07, 2023
Third wave of pension protests keeps pressure on Macron
By Reuters
Published:14:34, February 07, 2023 Updated:21:02, February 07, 2023 By Reuters

Protesters participate in a demonstration on the third day of nationwide rallies organized since the start of the year, against pensions overhaul in Montpellier, southern France on Feb 7, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

PARIS - Public transport, schools and refinery supplies were disrupted on Tuesday in France as trade unions led a third wave of nationwide strikes against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to make the French work longer before retirement. 

Tuesday's multi-sector walkouts and street protests come a day after pension reform legislation began its bumpy passage through parliament, and are a test of Macron's ability to enact change without a working majority in the National Assembly.

The French government says people must work two years longer - meaning for most until the age of 64 - in order to keep the budget of one of the industrial world's most generous pension systems in the black

The government says people must work two years longer - meaning for most until the age of 64 - in order to keep the budget of one of the industrial world's most generous pension systems in the black.

The French spend the largest number of years in retirement among OECD countries - a deeply cherished benefit that a substantial majority are reluctant to give up, polls show.

We're worn out by work," pensioner Bernard Chevalier said at a protest in the Riviera city of Nice, adding he would keep protesting until the government dropped its plan to raise the retirement age.

"Retirement should be a second life, not a waiting room for death."

Labour Minister Olivier Dussopt dismissed opposition accusations that the government was in denial over the scale of street protests across the country last month, and said change was needed.

"The pension system is loss-making and if we care about the system, we must save it," the minister told RMC radio.

ALSO READ: Protest in France, pressure on Macron's pension reform

Philippe Martinez, leader of the hardleft CGT trade union, said Macron was playing "a dangerous game" in pressing ahead with a deeply unpopular reform at a time households are facing high inflation.

TotalEnergies said deliveries of refined oil products from its sites had been suspended due to the strike. Electricity production was down just 3 gigawatts - roughly 4 percent of capacity.

Lawmakers gather at the National Assembly in Paris, Feb 6, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

'You don't understand'

Conservative opponents, whose support Macron needs for a working majority in the National Assembly, want concessions for those who start working young.

More than a million people marched in cities across France during the first two days of strike action in January, as public pressure intensified against a government that insists it will stand its ground on the reforms main planks.

In parliament, more than 20,000 amendments lie before lawmakers, the vast majority from the leftwing Nupes alliance. However, because the reform has been tacked onto an annual social security bill, the government may send it to the Senate after just two weeks.

READ MORE: France hit by second nationwide strike against pension reform

In a concession to conservatives, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has offered to let some people who start work early also retire early - but Les Republicains lawmakers are divided over whether the proposed starting age of 20-21 is low enough.

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