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Truckers block roads as French strikes hit weekend travel

Tourists and shoppers faced closed subway lines around Paris and near-empty railway stations as protests against pension reforms continued.

Blank departure boards at the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris (Thibault Camus.AP)
Blank departure boards at the Gare Montparnasse railway station in Paris (Thibault Camus.AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

Strikes disrupted weekend travel around France on Saturday as truckers blocked highways and most trains remained at a standstill because of workers’ anger at President Emmanuel Macron’s policies.

Tourists and shoppers faced closed subway lines around Paris and near-empty railway stations as a mass movement against the government’s plan to redesign the national retirement system entered a third day.

Other groups are joining the fray, too.

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Rail workers from the CGT union demonstrate in Hendaye, south-western France (Bob Edme.AP)

Truckers striking over a fuel tax hike disrupted traffic on highways from Provence in the south-east to Normandy in the north-west.

Meanwhile, yellow vest protesters were planning their weekly demonstrations over economic injustice on Saturday.

The travel chaos is not deterring the government.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told the French in a nationwide address on Friday: “You’re going to have to work longer.”

He will present details of the plan next week.

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A woman arrives at a closed subway station in Paris (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)

The government says it will not raise the official retirement age of 62 but the plan is expected to encourage people to work longer.

Mr Philippe did offer one olive branch, saying the changes would be progressive so that they do not become “brutal.”

Mr Macron says the reform, which will streamline a convoluted system of 42 special pension plans, will make the system more fair and financially sustainable.

Unions see the plan as a threat to hard-fought workers’ rights, and are digging in for what they hope is a protracted strike.

They also plan new nationwide retirement protests on Tuesday.

PA

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