Strikes crippled much of France’s public transport on Thursday as protesters came out in force against a deeply unpopular pensions overhaul, with schools and media also heavily affected.
The changes presented by President Emmanuel Macron’s government last week would raise the retirement age for most people from 62 to 64 and increase the years of contributions required for a full pension.
France’s trade unions called for a mass mobilisation, the first time they have united since 12 years ago, when the retirement age was hiked from 60 to 62.
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The unions are hoping for over a million demonstrators in more than 200 cities across France.
But French media have reported that police had prepared for 550,000 to 750,000 protesters, including 50,000 to 80,000 in Paris.
In the central city of Clermont-Ferrand, 54-year-old Florence Trintignac was among thousands protesting against the pensions reform.
“We’re on our knees,” said the employee in the private healthcare sector. “This reform is the last drop.”
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Wednesday that 10,000 police would be on alert, more than a third of them in the capital.
The strikes disrupted public transport in the capital, with one metro line closed and others running less frequently than usual, as many overland trains were cancelled throughout France.
Many parents were looking after their children as some 40 percent of primary school teachers and more than 30 percent of educators in the secondary system took part in the strike, according to official estimates.
Unions put participation much higher, at 70 and 65 percent respectively.
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