IN PICTURES: French ‘Spiderman’ climber stages his own one-man pension protest

A daredevil French climber on Monday made his own contribution to a long-running protest against planned pension reforms, scurrying up a towering skyscraper just outside Paris.

IN PICTURES: French 'Spiderman' climber stages his own one-man pension protest
All photos: AFP

“People spend 40 years of their lives slaving away, often in a job they don't even like,” Alain Robert told AFP before beginning his climb. “We want people to live decently.”

Robert, known worldwide for scaling landmark towers without ropes – and usually without permission – began his ascent of the 187-metre Total building in the La Defense business district at around 10.30am.

Passers-by gaped as he mounted the lattice of metal-framed glass panes, taking 52 minutes to reach the top, where as usual police and security guards were waiting.

“It was quite cold, I couldn't feel the tips of my fingers so it was tricky,” Robert said. “And also I'm not in the same shape as I was 20 years ago!”

“I'm 57, so technically not far from retirement. And climbing is the only way I make money,” Robert said before being taken away.

“Will I have to keep climbing solo until I'm 64? Or even 67?”

Unions have been waging a crippling transport strike against the pension overhaul since December 5th, disrupting train services and making commutes miserable for millions, especially in the Paris region.

For full coverage of the strikes, click here.

The government wants to forge a single system from 42 separate schemes, doing away with many of the 'special regimes' that allow people to retire earlier than the legal retirement age of 62.

“They need to stop telling people to work more and accept less, because that's what this reform is about,” Robert said, echoing claims from France's hard-line unions, which are demanding the government withdraw its plan.

It is not the first time Robert has climbed to promote a political message.

Last August, he unfurled a “peace banner” while racing up the 68 floors of the Cheung Kong Center in Hong Kong as the city was rocked by pro-democracy protests challenging Beijing's authority.

And in 2015, Robert scaled the Engie tower in La Defense to draw attention to calls for a more transparent banking system.

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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.