İrem UZUN -TDO- More than 800,000 people have marched in cities across France as railway workers, teachers and hospital staff held one of the biggest public sector strikes in decades against Emmanuel Macron's plans to overhaul the pension system. Workers are angry about planned pension reforms that would see them retiring later or facing reduced payouts.
An estimated 180,000 people in 30 cities across France were taking part in demonstrations by midday on Thursday against President Emmanuel Macron's proposed pension reforms. Meanwhile, a nationwide strike by transport workers, teachers and other professionals brought the country to a near standstill.
Trains, metros and bus services were severely hit, some flights were cancelled and many schools were closed in the biggest challenge to Macron's reform agenda since the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) anti-government protests erupted last year. In Paris, police briefly fired teargas during skirmishes with black-clad protesters on the edges of the trade union-led march in the early afternoon. Some protesters set fire to a storage trailer, smashed windows and a bus shelter, and overturned cars. Firefighters put out small fires lit in bins.
The government argues that unifying the pensions system - and getting rid of the 42 "special" regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff - is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the population ages. But unions say introducing a universal system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions.