Paris, Dec 11 (IANS) French unions opposed to President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms heaped pressure on the government Tuesday with further demonstrations and widespread strikes in public services.
Hundreds of thousands took to the streets of major cities in France on Tuesday, a day ahead the eve of the scheduled presentation of the reform package in detail by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Efe news reported.
The march in the capital Paris was led by Philippe Martínez, the leader of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) amid a high security presence.
“I hope Macron hears the social anger that is manifesting even more strongly these days but that we have been seeing for months,” he said at the beginning of the demonstration.
“Let him withdraw his project and seriously discuss the necessary improvement of the reform system, which is one of the best in the world.”
“What we want is for the government to completely withdraw this reform and then we talk,” he added.
In some cases there were less than half of the participants on previous days, compared to 250,000 on Thursday, the unions reported 180,000 protesters in Paris on Tuesday.
Jean-Michel Blanquer, the education minister, told French radio that 12.5% of elementary school teachers observed the strike, far less than the 51% registered when the industrial action began on Thursday.
Strikes in the rail industry, with a 20% reduction in high-speed TGVs and 30% on regional trains, sparked long traffic jams on the outskirts of Paris.
Alain Krakovitch, CEO of the SNCF suburban rail network urged commuters to avoid rail travel “for security reasons”.
Striking air traffic controllers have also prompted a reduction in air travel with scheduled flights arriving in or departing from major French airports cuts by about 20%.
The country as a whole also saw a drop in participation in the demonstrations with 885,000 participants on Tuesday compared with 1.5 million reported on Thursday.
The strike was called by unions who disagree with the president’s proposals to overhaul the current pension scheme in favor of a points-based system.
Students and professors strongly showed their rejection of the reform.
Charlene Dupont, professor at the University of Paris-Este Créteil, told Efe: “We have the feeling that we are drowned more and more every day.
“This goes beyond retirement, it is a shout against the worsening of public services, working conditions, overflowing classes and students overwhelmed by precariousness.”
Unions were due to meet later to decide whether to call another general strike for Thursday.