France braces for ‘Black Friday’ as Macron’s government formally unveils pension reforms

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French hardline unions have called for a day of industrial action and mass demonstrations Friday as President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reform the country’s unwieldly pension system is presented to his cabinet.


After a brief respite from a seven-week strike that extended over the Christmas period, French unions called for major shutdowns and demonstrations to show their “determination” to halt Macron’s pension reform plan.

The call came as French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe presents the new plan instituting a “universal system” of point-based pensions to the cabinet Friday, before it is sent to the National Assembly, France’s lower house, where debates will begin February 17.

Demonstrators held torch-lit protests in Paris Thursday evening ahead of a “Black Friday” of strikes and shutdowns.

France’s hardline CGT union’s leader, Philippe Martinez, warned that opposition to the pension reform “has not weakened” in an interview with the Public Sénat TV station, with polls showing that 61 percent of French people are calling for the reform to be withdrawn.

The CFE-CGC confederation of trade unions however declared it wanted to “take (a) break” after Friday’s mobilisation. “Our members are difficult to mobilise on a long-term basis, they have responsibilities and are not asking for economic activity to be too disrupted,” said senior CFE-CGC official Gérard Mardiné.

Friday is the 51st day of France’s longest strike in 40 years and unions hope there will be enough protesters in the streets to force the government to back down.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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