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France's train workers go on strike, railing against Macron's pension reforms

Philippe Lopez, AFP | In this file photo taken on April 9, 2018, SNCF assistance staff and commuters stand under information boards at the gare Saint-Lazare in Paris.
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Trains were disrupted and dozens of demonstrations were held across France on Tuesday as unions called a strike over President Emmanuel Macron's proposed overhaul of the country's retirement system.


Workers for the SNCF national railway are angry because the changes could take away their special pension system, which allows them to retire earlier than many other French workers.

Macron says the current state-funded pension system is too costly and complicated, with 42 different systems for various professions. He wants to replace that with one unified, sustainable pension scheme. France's current retirement age is 62 and the government has promised not to modify that but under the changes some people may have to work longer in order to get their full pension.

SNCF said most long-distance trains were working normally, notably on international routes, but local routes around Paris and other cities are seeing disruptions, leading to traffic jams at rush hour.

Over 1,000 people marched through the rain in Paris behind a banner that read "No to social regression."

Candy Deffoun, a union representative for Sud-Rail, said her salary is 1,700 euros ($1,870) a month.

"With this reform, I could end up with less than 1,000 euros ($1,100) in my pension (per month)," she said.

Vincent Le Faucheur, a train signalman, said "This is everyone's problem from the youth still in high school who worry about their pension, to the older folks, us. It affects all of us. We need to take action."

A massive strike against Macron's pension changes paralyzed Paris public transport on Sept. 13 and another is scheduled on Dec. 5.

The bill is expected to be formally presented and debated at parliament by next summer.


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