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Unions protest in France to resist raising retirement age

PARIS~ French union activists marched to the Olympic headquarters in Paris on Tuesday and went on strike to ease traffic congestion at the capital’s Orly airport to revive the movement against raising the retirement age. But the effort saw fewer supporters than at the top of the movement earlier this year, and even some union leaders appeared ready to move on.

President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and pass a bill without a vote in parliament has sparked public opinion and sparked some of France’s biggest protests in years. But the intensity of the anger over the pension reform has faded since the last mass protests on May Day and the measures took effect in April.

A small group of activists from the far-left CGT union stormed the 2024 Olympic headquarters in Saint-Denis, in the Paris suburbs, shouting anti-Macron slogans. Local public broadcaster France Bleu reported that union activists marched on train tracks in the western city of Rennes before being pushed back by police. In Paris, thousands of people gathered on the banks of the Seine near the golden-domed monument of Les Invalides before heading southeast from Paris. The peaceful crowd waved union flags, beat drums and chanted for the abolition of pension laws and a lowering of the retirement age.

President Macron has argued that reforms are needed to fund the pension system as the population ages. Unions and the opposition left say the changes will hurt the working poor and instead call for higher taxes for the wealthy and their employers. Outgoing CFDT chief Laurent Berger said following Tuesday’s actions: “We will continue to challenge the pension reform, but it will take a different form.”

CGT official Sophie Binet told reporters during the march in Paris that other protests “could take place”, but said it was time to discuss other issues such as working conditions and corporate tax evasion. Organizers of Tuesday’s protests are hoping to rally support ahead of Thursday’s parliamentary debate on a bill that would abolish the new retirement age. Lawmakers from the centrist opposition group LIOT have proposed a bill to raise the retirement age to 62. However, he faced many challenges before becoming an MP. Macron’s centrist party fails to win a majority in parliament, but works with conservative Republicans to fend off opposition moves.

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