Strike action over pensions once again brings cities in France to a standstill

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By Mark Armstrong  with AFP
Polls show that opposition to the pension reforms has widespread public support
Polls show that opposition to the pension reforms has widespread public support   -  Copyright  AP Photo

Cities across France were brought to a near stand-still again on Tuesday in the latest nationwide protest over pension reforms planned by President Emmanuel Macron's administration.

Thousands took to the streets in multiple rallies. The government wants to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. Unions and leftist parties are firmly resisting.

One politician present was Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left France Unbowed party, who said he was firmly on the side of the workers: "It's a kind of citizen's uprising of the people who are protesting against the fact that they (the government) want to take away from them this very simple thing, the right to lead a human existence and therefore to stop working after a certain age because the body, the mind, the nerves, everything is worn out."

Commuters faced a difficult start to the day, with transport reduced to minimal service, but polls show many people are opposed to the pension reforms and the strike has widespread public support.

"I can't take part in the demonstration but I'm with them, totally! For all the issues, for women, I've heard that it's not equal," said one man.

A woman added: "I think we're being asked to make an effort and so on, but is the government making an effort? Are they doing the same thing? I don't think so, I don't think so at all."

Those who will be impacted most by the changes, namely young people, also joined the strikes in some places.

Unions claim the action has spread to more sectors than ever before. They've promised to continue the protests in the weeks ahead.

However, the government insists it will offer only minor amendments, and that the new retirement age is not up for negotiation.