France braces for national 'standstill' ahead of planned protests
French public transport operators SNCF and RATP have warned motorists to expect heavy traffic on Tuesday and for widespread disruptions on metro and train lines ahead of renewed industrial action against the government's proposed pension reforms.
This latest round of strikes began on Friday and follows President Emmanuel Macron's plan to raise the pension age from 62 to 64 and abolish pension deals, allowing public sector workers to retire in their fifties.
Train drivers, industrial, gas, and electricity workers, as well as teachers, are all expected to walk out on Tuesday while union representations have said these strikes will continue for the long haul.
Only one train in every five will run as scheduled on the TGV Inoui, Ouigo, and TER networks, and just two trains out of every three will be operational on the international Thalys and Eurostar lines.
The Force Ouvrière-UNCP union renewed calls for mobilisation from Sunday evening with blockades placed in industrial zones around major cities.
There were also reports of traffic jams on Monday morning near the northern city of Lille
In Paris, officials said metro traffic will be restricted on most lines, mainly at peak times, except for lines 1, 14 and 4 on Tuesday.
Up to 1.4 million people are expected to take part in protests, with 60-90,000 protesters in Paris alone, police have said.
In the air, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) has asked companies to reduce their flight schedules on Tuesday and Wednesday, by 20% at Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle and by 30% at Paris-Orly , Beauvais, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Nantes, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice and Toulouse.
Production cuts which began on Friday were still in place at many energy plants on Monday morning according to the CGT trade union.
The CGT has also called for fresh strike action in refineries, the oil and chemical industries as well as the automobile and steel sectors, with the aim of "blocking the entire economy", in terms of production, distribution, and fuel imports.
While the Secretary-General of the CGT said strikers were ready to “bring the French economy to its knees” to achieve their objectives, the government has tried to dissuade strikers.
The Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gabriel Attal warned that these disruptions will instead bring workers to their knees, rather than the economy, and called on unions to act “responsibly”.
Asked about the strikes on Saturday as he completed a tour of African countries, President Macron said he had "nothing new to say" on the topic.