Unions called for another 'day of protest' on Thursday, January 9th as their long-running battle with the French government over pension reform continues into its 36th day.
Those unions are demanding the government drop its pension reform in their biggest show of strength in decades.
Protests took place in several cities including Paris where tens of thousands of workers, many from the public sector, marched west from Place de la Republique towards Place Saint-Augustin.
The hardline CGT union claimed 370,000 people joined the Paris protest but figures from police will likely be much lower.
— Thibault Izoret (@TIM_7375) January 9, 2020
“Between the government's stance of 'We're talking, everything is on the table' and the reality, you have to wonder if it really intends to… take the views of unions into account,” Philippe Martinez of the hardline CGT union said ahead of a march in Paris.
Officials have said they are ready to negotiate, in particular on the hotly contested “pivot age” of 64 the government has suggested people will have to work until for a full pension — beyond the official retirement age of 62.
As usual riot police were out in force with previous marches having been marred by vandalism and clashes with police. The Paris march began an hour later than planned, which unions said was due to the high turn-out.
The beginning of the protest was marked by tensions and minor clashes with police.
La police dans ses pathétiques exploits s'est mise à couper et a charger le cortège de tête pour finir par reculer sous la pression. #greve9janvier #manif9janvier #Retraites #reformedesretraites #giletsjaunes #paris #macron #ratp #sncf #grevegenerale #ViolencesPolicieres pic.twitter.com/ru0HXJWCTi
— Cerveaux non disponibles (@CerveauxNon) January 9, 2020
— Cole Stangler (@ColeStangler) January 9, 2020
Although away from the sporadic clashes with police marchers played music and carried banners in opposition to the government's reform that opponents, including teachers, fear will see people working for longer and for less reward when they retire.
There were chants of “on ira jusqu'au retrait” meaning protesters vowed to fight on until the government scrapped the reform.
Énormément de monde à Paris qui se dirige vers l’ouest parisien et les lieux de pouvoirs qui s’y situent sous les chants de « et on ira jusqu’au retrait » #greve9janvier #GreveGenerale #reformedesretraites pic.twitter.com/l696h2j3Vn
— Parenthèse (@parenthese_fr) January 9, 2020
There were also marches in Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes and the south western city of Bordeaux, as seen below, with striking rail workers at the front of the demo.
According to independent estimates some 120,000 people took part in protests elsewhere in the country apart from Paris.
“This isn't a reform, it's a sellout,” read one banner in the central city of Clermont-Ferrand.
Les cheminots en tête de cortège, en manifestation sauvage, se rendent à la gare Saint-Jean à Bordeaux. #Greve9Janvier #GreveGenerale #Bordeaux #GiletsJaunes #Syndicats #ReformeDesRetraites #Retraites #Greve pic.twitter.com/Gt8mBqrZkW
— Alexandre Keirle (@AlexKeirle) January 9, 2020
The government and unions will keep a close eye on the turn-out across the country which will be a significant sign as to whether the movement against the government's controversial pension reform was growing or dwindling.
The number of marchers on recent “days of protest” have been falling since 800,000 turned out on December 5th for the first day of the strike.
On Wednesday night there were also reports of tens of thousands of homes being left without power in Dordogne and Lot-et-Garonne, with authorities blaming “malevolent acts” linked to the anti-pension reform movement.
Meanwhile on Thursday train services across France and public transport in Paris were severely disrupted by the ongoing strikes.
On the railways three in five of the normal services are running on the high speed TGV routes and the budget Ouigo services.
? CIRCULATION DES TRAINS le 9 janvier ?
⚠️Trafic #Transilien, #TER & #Intercités très perturbé ⚠️
? Retrouvez l’info en temps-réel la veille dès 17h sur l’#AssistantSNCF ? https://t.co/e2VaaSqWLt pic.twitter.com/2TxQFL4wFi
— SNCF (@SNCF) January 8, 2020
Local services are more disrupted with one third of suburban Transilien services running, two in 10 Intercité routes and four in 10 local TER services.
These services represent a fall in the lines that have been running in recent days, as SNCF workers are expected to take part in protests.
International services including the Eurostar are still running a reduced service, and Eurostar has published a reduced timetable running until January 12th on its website.
In Paris there is also more disruption after some improvements in recent days.
[Mouvement Social]⚠️ Pour le 9/01, la #RATP prévoit un trafic très perturbé, priorisant les heures de pointes avec toutes les lignes de métro ouvertes. L’offre de trafic sera en baisse par rapport aux jours précédents sur le tramway & 1 bus sur 2 circuleront en moyenne. ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/7K0RHQEYkk
— Service client RATP (@ClientsRATP) January 8, 2020
On the Metro only lines 1 and 14 – which are automated – are running as normal.
All other Metro lines are running a limited service. Lines 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7bis, 8, 9 and 10 are running only during the rush hour – 6.30am to 9.30am and 4.30pm to 7.30pm.
Lines 11 and 13 are running only during morning rush hour, lines 6 and 12 only during evening rush hour and line 3bis only between 1pm and 6pm.
All those lines have fewer services than usual and many stations on the lines are be closed.
The trams have been running virtually as normal in recent days but Thursday sees a dip in services.
Lines 2, 6, 7 and 8 are running a 'quasi normal' service all day. Lines 1 and 3a are suspended between 11.30am and 2.30pm and Line 1 will stop at 9.30pm and Line 3a will stop at 9pm. Line 3b is suspended between 11am and 3pm.
The RER suburban trains are running from 5am to 9pm, but with significantly fewer services than normal and three quarters of the normal bus routes are running.
Tourist attractions in Paris were once again affected by the strike with the Eiffel Tower closed on Thursday.
?? En raison du mouvement social national, je suis fermée aujourd'hui. Mon parvis reste néanmoins accessible gratuitement.
— La tour Eiffel (@LaTourEiffel) January 9, 2020