French schools and transport networks were badly disrupted for the second time this month on Tuesday, as unions staged another massive strike against the government’s plans to raise the retirement age for most workers.
Trade unions and opposition parties called for protests in major cities, hoping for a repeat of the first major demonstration against the plans on January 19, in which more than 1 million people took part. Strikes that day shut down the transport network and closed the Eiffel Tower to visitors.
In Paris, more than 100 schools were expected to close on Tuesday as 60% of teachers walked out, the major education union FSU said on Twitter.
The French capital was expected to bear the brunt of the protests and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 4,000 police officers would be deployed to ensure strikes take place “without serious incident”.
The city’s transportation agency, RATP, warned that subway and suburban rail services would be “deeply disrupted.”
National rail operator SNCF said two-thirds of trains on TGV, France’s intercity high-speed train service, would be canceled on Tuesday and only 20% of regional trains would run.
Air France (AFLYY) canceled 10% of short-haul flights, but said the strikes would not affect long-haul flights. Eurostar, meanwhile, canceled several services between Paris and London.
There would be 248 protests across the country, Philippe Martinez, the leader of one of France’s largest confederations of trade unions CGT, told CNN affiliate BFM-TV on Tuesday.
Despite the massive action, President Emmanuel Macron’s government is sticking to planned pension reforms, which will gradually raise the age at which French citizens can receive state pensions from 62 to 64.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne said during an interview on domestic television channel France Info that raising the retirement age was “non-negotiable”.
The government has said the legislation is needed to address a funding gap, but the reforms have angered workers at a time when the cost of living is rising.
Thousands took part in mass demonstrations in the streets of Paris last year to protest the cost of living, and strikes by workers demanding higher wages caused fuel pumps across the country to run out a few months ago.
France spends nearly 14% of GDP on state pensions, one of the highest percentages among countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
By raising the retirement age to 64, France remains below the norm in Europe and in many other developed economies, where the age at which full pension benefits are vested is 65 and moving towards 67.
— Marguerite Lacroix contributed to this article.