Paris set for weekend of protests and travel disruption as talks fail to break pension deadlock

Paris was braced for yet another day of protest and transport misery on Saturday while train services around France were set to be disrupted again this weekend after talks between the French government and trade unions failed over pension reforms failed to break the impasse.

Paris set for weekend of protests and travel disruption as talks fail to break pension deadlock
Photo: AFP

More demos are again planned for Saturday January 11th in Paris, with both pension reform and ‘gilets jaunes’ protests set to take place. 

Acte 61 of the yellow vest movement will start in Paris’s 13th arrondissement at 11.30am and make its way toward Nation in the 11th/12th arrondissement, where it will merge with a pension reform rally starting from there at 1.30pm.

The double protest will then make its way through Place de la Bastille and end in Place de la République.

There will likely be a huge police presence in the capital after recent marches were marred by vandalism and violent clashes between radical protesters and police.

Unions have called for protests across the country to keep the pressure on the government as they aim to force it to back track on its controversial pension reform.

In terms of SNCF strike action this weekend, four TGV trains out of every five will be operational as opposed to only two Intercités out of every five services. 

SNCF has promised a “gradual return to normality” in terms of its high-speed TGV trains from Monday onwards.

As for moving around on Paris's metro, this is how transport strikes will affect services:

Line 1: normal traffic (with risk of saturation).

Line 2: open from 8 am till noon, 1 train every 10 minutes throughout the line.

Line 3: open from 1 p.m. to 10 pm, 1 train every 6 minutes between Opera and Pont de Levallois.

Line 3bis: open from 1pm to 6 pm, 1 train every 5 minutes throughout the line.

Line 4: open from 1 pm to 6 pm, 1 train every 4 minutes throughout the line.

Line 5: open from 9 am to 5.30 pm., 1 train every 7 minutes throughout the line.

Lines 6, 8 and 11 will be open in the morning and after with reduced services and several stations closed. 

Lines 7, 12 and 13 will only open for several hours throughout the afternoon with reduced services.

Line 14 will run as normal.

Paris Police have banned any “gathering of people claiming to be yellow vests” on the Champs-Elysées Avenue, roundabout and adjacent streets as well as the Elysée Palace, the National Assembly, the Paris Police Prefecture itself or the Forum des Halles shopping district.

Saturday and Sunday will be the 38th and 39th consecutive days of strikes against France’s controversial pension reform.

Talks fail again

Talks aimed at ending France's longest transport strike failed to make headway on Friday as the government and union leaders lock horns over hotly-contested pension overhaul.     

Only Laurent Berger of the moderate CFDT union mooted the possibility of rapprochement, saying Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had shown a “commitment to openness” regarding the disputed proposal to make people work until 64 for a full pension — two years beyond the official retirement age.

“But as I've said for several days now, we need to see what happens,” he said.

Both the CGT and FO unions, which are demanding the reform be dropped entirely, vowed to press ahead with the strike, now in its sixth week.

“Our determination remains absolute,” FO chief Yves Veyrier said after his meeting with Philippe and other officials.

The government says the new “pivot age” of 64 would plug pension deficits set to soar in coming years as a growing number of retirees live ever longer.

Unions were told at Friday's meetings that the measure would save five billion euros ($5.6 billion) by 2023 and some 11 billion euros by 2026.

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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.