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France brought to a standstill as pension reform protesters stage tenth day of strikes

PROTESTS and strikes against President Emmanuel Macron’s unpopular pension reforms brought France to a standstill again today.

Police were out in force following violent clashes between officers and demonstrators at previous rallies against Mr Macron’s plan to raise the retirement age in France from 62 to 64.

The French president used a special constitutional power earlier this month to ram the reform past legislators without allowing a vote.

But the draconian move has galvanised the protest movement. Violence has flared and thousands of tons of stinking garbage have piled up on Paris’s streets as sanitation workers strike.

“Everybody is getting madder,” said Clement Saild, a passenger at Paris’s Gare de Lyon railway station, where tracks were temporarily invaded and blocked by protesting workers.

He said: “I am 26, and I wonder if I will ever retire.”

The wave of protests Tuesday marked the 10th time since January that unions have called on workers to walk out and for demonstrators to flood the nation’s streets in protest.

While much attention has been paid to the protests in Paris and other major cities, participation in small towns across the country has been extremely high.

In Montargis, in the Loire region, around 2,000 people took to the streets — around a fifth of the population. 

A protester in Montargis, identified as Patrick, dressed up as an inmate with a sign saying “chained to work.” He described the protest as the “largest in living memory.”

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has offered talks over the next three weeks with members of parliament and unions.

But CGT general secretary Philippe Martinez said that the unions will write to Mr Macron to propose that he “suspend” the reform and “appoint a mediator” to help resolve the crisis.

French Democratic Confederation of Labour general secretary Laurent Berger said that he would accept the offer of talks only if the reform was first “put to one side.”

Mr Berger said that the government needed to come up with a “very big move on pensions.”

Communist Party general secretary Fabien Roussel said: “The door is open from the trade unions.”

He urged the president to “put this reform on hold” and to talk with the unions to find “a way out of the crisis.”

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