France braces for eleventh day of protests and strikes against controversial pension reform

France is bracing for the eleventh day of protests and strikes on Thursday as unions called for widespread action against President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform.

Talks between government and the country’s main unions on Wednesday ended in deadlock with union leaders describing the meeting with Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne as a “failure”.

They called on people to come out in force at marches across the country on Thursday against what they described as an “unfair and brutal reform”.

Macron and his government plan to overhaul the pension system which includes hiking the minimum retirement age by two years, from 62 to 64.

Nationwide protests and strikes against the proposed legislation started in mid-January and stepped up a notch in March after Borne invoked a controversial executive order to ram it through parliament without a vote.

The government says raising the retirement age for most workers is necessary for the country to balance the future pension budget. But unions believe the money can be found elsewhere.

On Thursday, many schools across France had joined in the industrial action with unions estimating that at least 20 per cent of primary school teachers were on strike.

There were also disruptions to public transport both in the capital and elsewhere. But for those travelling longer-distances, the state-owned rail company, SNCF, said it would run more trains than on previous strike days.

A record number of people, more than 1.2 million, marched against the reform nationwide on 7 March. However, turnout in last Tuesday’s round of strikes and demonstrations, the tenth since the start of protests, was down on the week earlier.

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