Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

France transport strikes threaten Christmas travel plans

Tens of thousands of ticket holders will be affected by the strike over public pension reforms

A member of the CGT trade union in France holds a box for strike fund donations on the 20th day of a nationwide multi-sector strike over French government’s plan to overhaul the country’s retirement system. AFP
A member of the CGT trade union in France holds a box for strike fund donations on the 20th day of a nationwide multi-sector strike over French government’s plan to overhaul the country’s retirement system. AFP

Transport strikes in France have continued for their 20th day, bringing misery for tens of thousands of ticket holders unable to travel home in time for Christmas.

French President Emmanuel Macron had called for a “Christmas truce” but the stand-off between French transport unions and the government over pension reforms showed no sign of abating on Tuesday.

Up to 40 per cent of high-speed rail and regional express services have been cancelled, along with up to 20 per cent of other trains on Christmas Eve, because of strikes by workers from the national SNCF and Parisian RATP rail and public transport companies.

Evening trains between Paris and the suburbs will be halted on Tuesday evening, with some due to reopen on Wednesday morning.

Talks between the unions and the government failed last week, with a fresh round of negotiations scheduled for January 7.

Rail workers are protesting against the government’s plan for a universal points-based pensions system, replacing 42 pre-existing schemes. Unions say this would lead to some public employees retiring later and losing their say on contributions and benefits.

The government says the reforms are essential to keep the pensions system financially viable and has refused to back down.

The reform was one of Mr Macron’s central election pledges. Earlier this week, the French President said he would not take up his own monthly pension of more than €6,000 (Dh24,415) given to all French leaders when they leave office.

“The reform of the pension system will apply to him … It is about being consistent and providing an example,” a representative for Elysée Palace said on Sunday.

Mr Macron has also said he will not take his place in the Constitutional Council, which is granted to all presidents and would have brought him another monthly allowance of €13,500.

Unions denounced the move as a publicity stunt, arguing that as a former investment banker, Mr Macron had the luxury of being able to give up the pension.

Updated: December 24, 2019 08:47 PM

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