Paris, Feb 8 – An estimated 757,000 people took to the streets across France to demand government to drop its proposed pension reforms, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
However, the CGT, France’s largest union, said that the turnout exceeded two million during the third day of the general mobilisation against the pension reform that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64, Xinhua news agency reported.
Turnout at the previous nationwide demonstration on January 31 was estimated by the Ministry at 1.2 million and by the CGT at 2.8 million.
In Paris, where the Ministry counted 57,000 demonstrators, police forces used tear gas to disperse the crowds that sparked clashes. By 6 p.m. local time, 17 people had been arrested.
Similarly to the previous two general mobilisations, workers from several public sectors went on strike on Tuesday. However, there were fewer strikers among teachers and in the public services than on January 31.
Rail traffic was severely disrupted on Tuesday, and two unions representing employees of the French national railway company SNCF said that the strike was to continue on Wednesday. A third of high-speed TGV trains as well as half of regional and intercity trains are to be cancelled.
The French multinational electricity company EDF said that more than 30 per cent of its employees were on strike at midday on Tuesday, which had greatly affected electricity production by late Tuesday morning.
The mobilisation remained strong in TotalEnergies where, according to the CGT, the strike rate varied between 75 and 100 per cent.
Although deliveries of petrol products from TotalEnergies sites were interrupted, the company’s management said that there was “no lack of fuel” in the group’s service stations.
In a joint statement, eight unions called on “the entire population to demonstrate even more massively on Saturday, February 11, throughout the territory to say no to this reform”.
On Tuesday, the French National Assembly kicked off a debate on the planned pension reform.
On January 10, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne laid out details of the plan, which would progressively raise the legal retirement age by three months a year from 62 to 64 by 2030, and introduce a guaranteed minimum pension.
Starting in 2027, the plan would also require at least 43 years of work to be eligible for a full pension.