French refinery workers, teachers, train drivers, and other critical industry employees walked off their jobs in a nationwide day of strikes against President Emmanuel Macron's plan to increase the retirement age by two years to 64. AP News reported the strikes are "halting high-speed trains, disrupting electricity supplies," and bringing major transportation networks to a screeching halt.
Protests are underway in major French metro areas, including Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Nantes, and Nice. Transportation networks have ground to a halt. Many workers who hit the street in protest of Macron's planned increase to the minimum retirement are in sectors including railways, schools, hospitals, and air-traffic controllers.
France's eight largest labor unions coordinated today's massive labor action. The CGT union and the head of the Communist party are expected to have at least a million workers protest today.
"This will be a first day," CGT head Philippe Martinez told local media France 2. He added: "When we say this, it means there will be others."
Reuters noted before the strike that the CGT union "threatened to cut off electricity supplies to lawmakers and billionaires."
The challenge for Macron is to overhaul the pension system to keep it solvent. His administration has argued that the aging population and growing life expectancy have burdened the pension systems. However, the unions are upset with Macron's plan amid increasing outrage over a cost-of-living crisis.
Labour Ministry estimates show increasing the retirement age by two years would bring an additional 17.7 billion euros in annual pension contributions -- allowing the pension fund to survive until 2027.
AP reported many forms of transportation are either delayed or halted today.
A majority of trains around France are canceled, including some international connections, according to the SNCF rail authority. About 20% of flights out of Paris' Orly Airport are canceled and airlines are warning of delays.
Bloomberg pointed out energy shipments might be affected.
Fuel deliveries from French refineries, including those owned by TotalEnergies SE and Exxon Mobil Corp., will also be affected by the 24-hour strike. And as many as 70% of nursery and primary school teachers will stay home, closing many schools, according to unions in the education sector.
Here's what's happening on the streets:
There's just so much going on here. The CGT is the largest French trade-union (and I believe these are from their "mining and energy" union) https://t.co/knEJlhmPxT— Morvan Lallouet (@m_lallouet) January 19, 2023
La tête de cortège envahi la place Castellane. Une membre de la CGT annonce 140 000 personnes dans les rues marseillaises. pic.twitter.com/Aqg6rIqSVc— Le 13 informé (@13Informe) January 19, 2023
Selon notre décompte 6500 manifestants (8000 selon la CGT) pic.twitter.com/IkM7FhJEey— Cécile Thiébaut 📰 (@ctvdnvals) January 19, 2023