France braces for fresh travel woes amid strikes over pension reforms

France's President Emmanuel Macron left shakes hands with French soldiers of the NATO Battle Group at the Tapa military base about 90 kilometers west of Tallinn Estonia

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The official retirement age in France has been raised in the past decade 60-62, but it remains one of the lowest among the OECD group of rich countries - in the United Kingdom, for example, the retirement age is 66.

The protest dwarfed the weekly Yellow Vests demonstrations that have been happening every Saturday for over a year now.

The lack of official data and differences in the methods used by countries to record levels of industrial action makes it hard to determine whether the French lead the way.

France on strike - in pictures A fairer system?

The lack of details so far has left many French residents, many of whom distrust Mr. Macron, believing that their pensions will decrease.

Air travel, which has been less impacted by the strikes, was returning closer to normal with air traffic restrictions now dropped by civil aviation authorities.

"This is the first time Macron faces real opposition, a union wall", Bruno Cautres, a political scientist at the Sciences Po institute, said Sunday on France Info radio.

The government has already indicated it wants to replace 42 separate pension plans - including advantageous schemes known as régimes speciaux or special regimes that allow workers in some professions to retire early - with a single points-based system with equal rights for all pensioners.

Critics argue that the shake-up will require people in both the public and private sector to work longer for a smaller retirement payout.

The group said this was because e-scooters - despite being widely viewed as an ecologically-friendly form of transport - actually required large quantities of energy and resources during their manufacture and had short life cycles. In France, the pension age was raised to 62 years.

Does France leads Europe with a strike?

An opinion poll by the IFOP agency said Sunday that 33 percent of French people supported the strike. It rejects any pension reform proposals and said workers had blocked seven out of eight of the countries oil refineries.

It expressed concern for shops already "placed in jeopardy, for a year running now, by the "yellow vests" movement". Many see the general strike in France as protecting the country's social safety net - not just about preserving pensions. Masked demonstrators started fires, smashed storefronts, and vandalized cars. Many people in the Paris region worked from home or took a day off to stay with their children, since 78% of teachers in the capital went on strike.

Macron, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and senior Cabinet ministers met late Sunday to discuss the changes, and are set to meet again on Tuesday night before Philippe presents the plan on Wednesday.

French commuters and tourists braced for a fifth day of public transport chaos Monday as the government prepared to respond to widespread anger over pension reform that has sparked open-ended walkouts.

On Thursday and Friday, strikers also blocked several fuel depots around France, causing long gas station lines as anxious motorists stocked up.

Ten out of the RATP's 16 metro lines will be offline Monday, four will offer limited services, and the only two driverless metros will run as scheduled but with a "risk of congestion" during peak hours.

Unions have vowed a second series of mass demonstrations nationwide on Tuesday after big rallies on Thursday and there is expected to be little easing of the transport freezes over the coming days.

Skirmishes broke out between police firing tear gas and protesters throwing flares in the western city of Nantes, and thousands of red-vested union activists marched through cities from Marseille on the Mediterranean to Lille in the north.

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