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French government holds meeting, unions vow to escalate strikes

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — French government officials met Friday to discuss their strategy ahead of fresh talks with angry unions over an expected pension reform, amid a warning of new strikes along with a strike paralyzing transportation 30 days ago.

Speaking to France-2 television, CeBIT India said the government was “seeking a way towards a speedy settlement” at a time when Prime Minister Edouard Philippe gathered his ministers for the unscheduled meeting.

The unions vehemently rejected plans to merge the 42 existing pension systems into a point-based system, considering that this would force millions of people to work beyond the age of 62.

President Emmanuel Macron put pension reform at the center of his campaign, stressing that it will be more transparent and fair, especially for low-income women.

However, the government announced a series of concessions to sectors such as the police, military, pilots and railway staff.

Many public sector employees are demanding exceptions similar to the new rules, which would set a “pivotal age” at 64 years when retirees can reach full pension.

The powerful Confederation of General Labor (CGT) called for cutting off roads leading to refineries and fuel tanks for four days from Tuesday, the date for the resumption of talks between the unions and the government.

The unions representing the pilots and air crews on the Air France (Air France) called for a strike next week, as well as lawyers, physiotherapists and others working on their own.

– A battle of wills –

Macron, during his traditional New Year speech, confirmed the intention to implement pension reforms, which will be presented to his government on January 22, before a parliamentary debate.

He said that the new pension system is necessary because most people start their careers late and live longer.

But he promised that people in exhausting occupations would be allowed to retire early, a major sticking point in talks with unions, as well as setting a new “pivotal age” at 64 to obtain a full pension.

Macron also hopes to win the battle of public opinion, betting that the support for the strike will fade with the continuing transport turmoil.

The unions called for another day of mass demonstrations next Thursday, expected to be attended by the professor and hospital workers and others.

Although the number of strikers in the National Railroad Company (SNCF) and the National Transport Company has declined since the protests began on December 5, citizens are still suffering from major disruptions in transportation services.

Most of the Paris metro lines were operating only during rush hour or only a few per hour, while a third of the high-speed trains were canceled Friday.

The train strike is the longest of its kind for a continuous period in the history of France, and also the longest for opera dancers and other employees who also have a separate system allowing them to retire early.

So far 63 opera concerts in Garnier and Bastille were canceled during the strike, which cost the company more than 12 million euros ($ 13.4 million) in lost ticket sales.

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