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Paris in Chaos as Strike Shuts Down Metro, Freezes City

Paris metro station, 2017.
Paris metro station, 2017. (Photo: SofieLayla Thal)

“It’s a strike by employees saying, ‘We want to retire at a reasonable age with a reasonable pension.’”

Paris, France was crippled by a strike on Friday as transport workers on Paris’s 16 metro lines protested over planned pension reforms. Ten of Paris’ 16 metro lines were shut down completely while service on others was disrupted. Paris commuters reportedly cycled, walked or stayed at home, leading to chaos, confusion and huge traffic jams across the city.

Paralyzed Movement

Photos shared by local media outlets showed cramped metro platforms and crowds of people waiting to ride, as only a few trains were running and bus service was also severely disrupted, BBC reported.

French officials reported over 389KM of traffic jams in Paris during peak evening rush hour – more than double the usual amount.

The strike which is the largest since 2007 was launched in protest of a recent pension reform plan endorsed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Macron wants to implement a universal pension system which he claims would make a fairer public pension system and would replace dozens of varying pension plans in place for different industries.

Workers in other industries including lawyers, airline staff members and medical workers are expected to strike beginning next week.

“It’s not a strike by the privileged few,” Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT (General Confederation of Labor) union, told France Info Radio. “It’s a strike by employees saying, ‘We want to retire at a reasonable age with a reasonable pension.’”

Controversial Pension Reforms

Macron’s pension plan would push back the age of retirement for metro workers from the current age of 55. As the BBC reported, metro workers negotiated decades ago to set the age of retirement at 55 – that age was chosen in part to compensate for the long hours transit workers spend underground.

Under the universal pension plan, those who retired before the age of 64 would receive lower pensions; those who retired at 63 would receive five percent less.

Responding to concerns over the new pension reforms, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, stressed on Thursday that the reforms would prove fair to everyone.

“We’re going to construct a truly universal system where every euro paid in will provide the same rights for everyone, whether a laborer, a shop owner, a researcher, a farmer, a civil servant, a doctor or an entrepreneur,” Philippe said.

The French government is aiming to have the pension reform plan voted on by early next year.

Rami Almeghari

Rami Almeghari is a freelance independent writer, journalist and lecturer, based in the Gaza Strip. Rami has contributed in English to several media outlets worldwide, including print, radio and TV. He can be reached on facebook as Rami Munir Almeghari and on email as [email protected]

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