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French PM Threatens Crackdown on Transport Protests Before Christmas


7Dnews London

Sun, 15 Dec 2019 21:09 GMT

Tensions have escalated in France between the government and the workers' unions over controversial pensions reforms, AFP reported on Sunday December 15th.

The modified pensions system announced by the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe stirred the anger of unions which led to strike in transportation which has crippled the country.

As the strike continues for the 11th day, Philippe issued a warning that France will not tolerate being stranded at Christmas as fears grew of travel mayhem.

Philippe angered the unions by proposing a reduced payout for people who retire at the age of 62 instead of a new so-called "pivot age" of 64.

Train traffic was again severely disrupted on Sunday. In Paris, public transport remained at a near-standstill, with only two of the city's 16 metro lines operating and most national rail services cancelled.

The unions have announced mass protests for Tuesday December 17th, which are expected to bring tens of thousands of people onto the streets.

Unions are hoping for a repeat of 1995, when they forced a rightwing government to back down on pension reform after three weeks of metro and rail strikes just before Christmas.

The prospect of a protracted standoff has businesses fearing big losses during the crucial year-end festivities, and travellers worried that their holiday plans will fall through.

The prime minister has held talks with union leaders and more negotiations are scheduled over the coming week.

French President Emmanuel Macron's government insists the changes will make for a fairer system and help erase pension-system deficits forecast to reach as much as 17 billion euros ($19 billion) by 2025.