Protests resume in France amid anger over Macron’s retirement age reform

PARIS, March 18 (Reuters) – Strikes at refineries continued on Saturday in France and fresh protests erupted across the country amid anger at the government for imposing an increase in the retirement age without a parliamentary vote.

The growing unrest, combined with the rubbish piling up on the streets of Paris after garbage collectors joined the action, has left President Emmanuel Macron with the gravest challenge to his authority since the so-called “Vests Jaunes” (Yellow Vests) demonstrations of December 2018.

Some 37% of operational staff at TotalEnergies’ refineries and depots (TTEF.PA) – at sites such as Feyzin in southeastern France and Normandy in the north – were on strike on Saturday, a spokesman said. of the company.

Meanwhile, rolling strikes continued on the railroads.

Riot police clashed with protesters in Paris on Friday night as a demonstration took place in the capital’s Place de la Concorde, near the National Assembly parliament building, leading to 61 arrests.

This led the Paris prefecture to ban gatherings on Place de la Concorde and the nearby Champs-Elysees on Saturday.

Another rally, however, was scheduled for later Saturday in Place d’Italie in southern Paris.

Elsewhere in the French capital, a group of students and activists from the “Permanent Revolution” collective briefly invaded the Forum des Halles shopping center, waving banners calling for a general strike and shouting “Paris up, up”, videos on social networks shown.

BFM television also broadcast images of ongoing protests in cities such as Compiègne in the north, Nantes in the west and Marseille in the south.

“There is no place for violence. Parliamentary democracy must be respected,” Minister of Digital Transition and Telecommunications Jean-Noël Barrot told radio Sud.

A broad alliance of France’s main unions said it would continue to mobilize in an attempt to force a U-turn on the changes. A nationwide day of labor action is scheduled for Thursday.

While eight days of nationwide protests since mid-January and numerous local labor actions have so far been largely peaceful, the unrest of the past three days is reminiscent of the Yellow Vest protests that erupted in late 2018 over high oil prices. fuel, and which forced Macron to make a partial U-turn on a carbon tax.

Macron’s overhaul raises the retirement age by two years to 64, which the government says is essential to ensure the system does not collapse.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon, Gilles Guillaume and Forrest Crellin; Editing by David Holmes

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