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French pension strikes to continue into new year, union warns.

STRIKES that have paralysed France for almost four weeks will continue into the new year, a leading trade unionist warned on Saturday, as polls show public support for the action against pension reforms.

Philippe Martinez, leader of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), said that about €1 million (£854,000) has been donated by French citizens to support those on strike — who have gone without pay since the action began on December 5.

“It’s a strong movement and still supported by public opinion,” he said while visiting a picket at a bus depot in Paris.

Polls published two days before Christmas showed that 51 per cent of people in France support the strike, with 34 per cent against.

Walkouts have taken place in opposition to the latest neoliberal reforms proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron. Unions warn that workers in certain sectors, including the railways, would be forced to work longer for a reduced pension.

The reforms come as France is under pressure from the European Union to curb public spending. New structural deficit reduction plans of 0.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) sit below previous targets and are out of line with the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact.

France’s deficit currently sits at 3.1 per cent of GDP, slightly higher than the EU limit of 3 per cent.

Pensions are under attack as the country’s publicly owned rail and transport industry must be offered to the private sector as open access arrives in 2020.

Transport remained at a virtual halt at the weekend with a proposed Christmas truce rejected by workers.

Talks are set to resume on January 7.


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