World

French unions block ports as pension strikes lose steam

PARIS: French trade unions blocked ports and disrupted power production on Thursday (Jan 16), searching for a way to force President Emmanuel Macron to ditch a planned pension overhaul as the impact of transport strikes weakens.

Ferry services to Britain suffered delays and at least 20 bulk carriers waiting to export cereals were kept at anchor outside France's major ports, data from financial data provider Refinitiv showed. Electricity output was down about 9per cent of available capacity.

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The public sector strikes are now in their 43rd day but the industrial action has lost momentum since Macron's government made a concession over the age of retirement and as strikers face mounting financial pressure to return to work.

Only 10 percent of workers at the state-run SNCF railways walked out on Thursday, compared with more than half when the strikes began on Dec. 5.

Data collated by Reuters from public transport agencies show the number of SNCF and Paris metro trains operating has risen and strike observance has fallen.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has offered to withdraw plans to raise the retirement age for full pension benefits by two years to 64 if the pension budget can be balanced another way, driving a wedge between unions determined to see the reform scrapped and those more open to reform.

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"It's never too late to force a government to cave in," said Philippe Martinez, head of the far-left CGT union, before a street march in Paris in a sixth round of nationwide protests.

Macron, a former investment banker, wants to streamline France's convoluted pension system and give French people an incentive to stay in work longer to pay for some of the most generous retirement benefits in the industrialised world.

It would be the biggest overhaul of the system since World War Two and is ceRead More – Source