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Doctors, lawyers and pilots protest in Paris over pension reforms

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By Reuters
Doctors, lawyers and pilots protest in Paris over pension reforms
French lawyers attend a demonstration to protest against pension reforms in Paris, France, September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau   -   Copyright  CHARLES PLATIAU(Reuters)

PARIS (Reuters) – Lawyers in flowing black courtroom gowns, doctors in white coats and uniformed airline pilots marched through Paris on Monday to protest at French President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.

Macron’s government has just launched one of the most ambitious reforms of his presidency — to merge France’s 42 different pension systems into a single points-based system. Macron says it will be fairer, but some professions say they will lose out.

“All the professions here have handled their funds well,” said Air France pilot Thierry Oriol who was one of several hundred protesters who marched through the centre of Paris, shouting slogans, blowing whistles and carrying placards demanding their pension schemes be left alone.

“Today the government should really be asking us ‘How is it you’ve got a fund which is prosperous?’ rather than trying to take it off us without any debate,” he said.

Late last week, Paris public transport workers went on strike over the plans to reform their pension scheme, causing transport misery for commuters.

Wary of huge demonstrations that have dogged previous pension reform plans, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a Macron ally, promised on Thursday to take the time to listen to unions and broader public opinion.

The CFDT, France’s biggest union, is cautiously open to reforming the pension system to make it fairer, but other unions are opposed outright and have promised a fight.

Macron has been weakened politically by the “Yellow vest” anti-government protests at the end of 2018 and early this year. Those protests, which saw some of the worst street violence in decades, were triggered by anger over falling living standards and also concerns Macron was pushing his reform agenda too hard.

(Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Antony Paone ; Editing by Christian Lowe)