France strikes: Pension reform protest movement enters fourth week

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By Lauren Chadwick
France strikes: Pension reform protest movement enters fourth week
Copyright  AP Photo/Francois Mori   -   Francois Mori

As France's national strike over pension reform enters its fourth week, trains are still cancelled and running on reduced schedules across much of the country.

The government had called for a pause during the holiday season, but instead, the strike has entered its 22nd consecutive day.

Roughly 50% of high-speed regional trains were operating on Thursday, an improvement from earlier this week when just 20% were operating.

Transportation in Paris meanwhile continued to be heavily disrupted. Four Paris metro lines were closed and at least ten metro lines were running on reduced schedules on Thursday (December 26).

"The ball is in the government's camp," the CFDT union's statement said on December 19. Talks with the government are set to restart on January 7.

Read more: How can France best reform its pensions system?

The unions are opposed in varying degrees to Macron government's retirement reform plan which includes raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 and moving from a system with 42 special pension plans to a universal points-based system.

According to an Ipsos poll released on December 18, the approval ratings of Emmanuel Macron and his prime minister Edouard Philippe have fallen since the start of the month by around 4 points each.

An Ifop poll released on December 23 found that 51% of French people supported the strike movement, down a few points from polling released earlier in the month.

Some supporters have even contributed financially to the movement. A money pool in support of the CGT union reached €1.2 million on Christmas.

The online money pool was created in 2016, but according to national radio France Info, since December 5 it has increased by over €640,000.

Read more: France strikes: Unions vow to fight on over pension reform