Transport workers’ strike over pension brings Paris to a halt

Paris, September 13

Commuters faced travel chaos on Friday as transport workers went on strike over plans to reduce their retirement privileges in a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plans.

Ten out of Paris 16 subway lines and two major regional train lines were totally shut as the morning rush hour got underway, leaving commuters scrambling to find alternatives to get to work.

“I am walking to work today and will be on the streets for at least four hours,” Anthony (21), who works in a restaurant in West Paris, said.

Unions want the strike, expected to be the largest since 2007 in Paris, to send a warning to Macron’s government as it launches one of the most perilous reforms of his presidency — to merge France’s 42 different pension systems into a single points-based system.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe promised on Thursday to take the time to carefully sound out unions and take account of broader public opinion after having faced criticism in the past for turning a deaf ear.

“The PM’s announcements will not have any impact. The strike has been launched and participation will be massive,” said Frederic Ruiz, head of CFE-CGC union at the RATP Paris public transport company.

The pension regime specific to RATP workers allows train drivers and other staff that work underground to retire at 52, a decade earlier than the normal legal retirement age for a full public pension. Previous reforms have already rolled back some of RATP workers’ rights and increased how long they have to pay into the system. — Reuters