Rail workers, teachers, doctors, lawyers and others joined a nationwide day of protests and strikes Thursday to denounce French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to overhaul the pension system.
As the government and unions pushed on with crucial negotiations about the changes, street protests were staged in Paris and other French cities, with railway strikes entering their sixth week.
The Eiffel Tower was shut as employees joined the protest movement. Paris metro traffic was severely disrupted, except for two automatic lines running normally.
The national rail company, SNCF, said three high-speed trains out of five were running. Regional trains were also affected and many schools were closed.
Unions have also called on workers to block road access to major ports, including in the southern city of Marseille.
Talks between the government and workers unions resumed Tuesday but no compromise has so far been reached. A new round of negotiations focusing on the financing of the new pension system is scheduled for Friday. Macron has asked his government to find a quick compromise with reform-minded unions.
So far, the government is sticking to its plan to raise the full retirement age from 62 to 64, the most criticized part of the proposals.
The changes aim to unify France’s 42 different pension schemes into a single one. Under specific pension schemes, some people, like railway worker, are allowed to take early retirement. Others, like lawyers and doctors, pay less tax.
Unions fear people will have to work longer for lower pensions, and polls suggest at least half of French people still support the strikes.