France

Major disruption unlikely amid union division on French pension reform strike

Some public transport will be affected...
Some public transport will be affected... Renaud Chodkowski/Flick'r/CC

Hardline trade unions in France have called on workers to strike today in protest against proposed reforms to the French pension system, but without the support of moderate unions, major disruption is unlikely.

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Previous efforts at pension reform in 1995 and 2010 led to mass protests and damaging strikes.

Unions have denounced this proposed reform as "anti-youth" because it will increase contribution periods incrementally from the current 41.5 years to 43 years by 2035, meaning that employees will need to work longer to be eligible for full pensions.

Several student groups back the strike because they say today’s young people will be hardest hit.

A full package of reforms will be presented on September 18 as France, under pressure from the European Union, tries to plug holes that will see its generous state pension scheme fall more than 20 billion euros into the red by 2020.

The government also proposes increasing employee and employer contributions to France's retirement system, but stops short of more controversial proposals such as raising the retirement age or imposing a new tax on French retirees.

The French parliament is to consider the measures in October.

The protest's impact was minimal early on Tuesday but was could have greater consequences throughout the day. The SNCF state rail company said trains were largely running as normal on Tuesday morning, while public transport in the Paris region was operating without much disruption.

Delays were also expected at airports later.

"We are not expecting marches that will be as big as in 2010," when three million people protested against then-president Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms, said a government source.

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