Unions vow to paralyze France

Roads closed, oil refineries blocked, planes grounded and trains stopped. Unions were threatening to paralyze the French economy this week, in what they hoped would be their biggest challenge yet to President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age.

The first actions were expected for Monday, when truckers were urged to block highways and major intersections in low-speed actions known as “snail” operations. The unions had planned an indefinite strike of the national railway service starting yesterday afternoon.

The government was preparing for the biggest incidents on Tuesday, when strikes in various sectors and protests against the pension law were expected throughout the country. The reform, which would raise the official retirement age from 62 to 64 and would require 43 years of contributions to obtain a full pension, is now subject to parliamentary debate.

“A headache”

“There will be a very strong impact” from the strikes, Transport Minister Clement Beaune told regional radio station France-3 on Sunday. “I know that for many people it will be a real headache.” Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt told FranceInfo news television on Monday that “expressing disagreement is legitimate, but it must not lead to a blockade of the country, which would be dangerous for our economy.”

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