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French pensions strike enters second day as unions call for mass protests on Tuesday

SCHOOLS, transport and tourist attractions around France remained closed in many areas today as a mammoth public- and private-sector strike against attacks on pensions continued.

Following Thursday’s action, in which most public services were paralysed as over 800,000 workers marched against President Emmanuel Macron’s bid to restructure pensions, trade unions called for a second day of action to be held next Tuesday.

In certain services, such as the Paris Metro, the strike has been extended to Monday.

Trade union leaders say the action is open-ended and that they will not rest until the government backs down on plans it has not yet agreed to publish, but which unions say will mean a longer working life for most and a smaller pension.

Left-wing union federation CGT’s confederate secretary Catherine Perret said: “Everyone on the streets on December 10 for a new day of strikes, actions and protests. Workers have made their point — it is a question of [the government] withdrawing the reform project and opening negotiations.”

Though Mr Macron has stayed aloof — getting aides to brief the press that he is “calm and determined” — ministers, including those for health and education, have met trade union leaders for talks having been spooked by the scale of the action, which polls show is backed by around 60 per cent of the French public.

Sud-Rail trade union leader Christian Mahieux said that “because we do a socially useful job, when this work suddenly stops it is a real inconvenience” but praised the “strong support and understanding” striking rail workers had received from the public.

He said trade unions were determined to repeat the victories they won against neoliberal government attacks by three weeks of strike action in 1995 and by the two months of social unrest in 1986-7.

Commuter Eric Dao said the strike made him late for work but “it is justified because it is necessary to find better social solutions.”

At Paris’s Balzac school, where teachers struck for a second day, they released a joint statement saying the action “concerns all employees in the public and private sector and, later, our students.

“Pensions should be a definitive sign of respect for accomplishing years of work, which are often laborious and annoying,” they stated.

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