Tuesday 21 January 2020

France facing strike chaos on 'Black Thursday'

Key test: French President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure. Photo: Reuters
Key test: French President Emmanuel Macron is under pressure. Photo: Reuters

Henry Samuel

France was facing paralysis today as it braced itself for nationwide strikes in a stand-off between Emmanuel Macron and unions that police fear could turn violent.

In what has already been dubbed "Black Thursday", hundreds of domestic and short-haul international flights have been cancelled.

EasyJet has axed 223 flights and warned that others risk delays. Cancellations and delays are also expected on Eurostar rail services, while 90pc of fast TGV and regional trains will not run.

Most of the Paris Metro will be shut, along with the majority of schools in a showdown over the president's planned pension reforms. Unions warn that the strikes are "open-ended" and could last for days.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

The stand-off is seen as a key test of Mr Macron's reformist mettle. Early in his presidency, he rushed through labour and public rail reforms, but then lost steam during the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) revolt.

"Pensions is the big test. If we stall, the presidency is over. We won't do anything else," one government heavyweight told 'Le Monde'.

This time, an array of mainly public sector workers will down tools: rail, bus, airline and utility staff, nurses, teachers and civil servants. Fuel depots may be blocked.

Mr Macron insists that now is the time to end unfair discrepancies between 42 different "special" regimes that allow some to retire on a full pension in their early 50s. He wants a single system in which each day worked earns points for a worker's future pension benefits.

Christophe Castaner, the interior minister, said 245 demonstrations were expected nationwide, warning that a radical fringe of demonstrators could cause trouble. Security services fear the yellow vests, whose protests sometimes ended in extreme violence, could return to the fray.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News