French pension protestors back on streets

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Foreign Desk Report PARIS: French trade unions disrupted rail services, shut schools and brought demonstrators onto the streets in cities across France on Thursday in a make-or-break push to force President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his planned pension reform. The country’s hard-left unions rallied supporters hoping to regain momentum at a time participation in a 36-day long public sector strike wanes and opinion polls show public backing for the industrial action dropping. Police fired teargas at protesters in Nantes in a brief skirmish while in Bordeaux, Marseille and Toulouse, workers waved union flags and trailed smoke flares as they protested peacefully ahead of a demonstration in Paris later in the day. “You stop a protest movement when workers feel their demands are on the table,” hardline CGT union boss Philippe Martinez told Europe 1 radio. “We’ve had no response from the government.” Former investment banker Macron wants to streamline France’s unwieldy pension system and incentivise the French to stay in work longer to pay for some of the most generous retirement benefits in the industrialized world. The proposed reform would be the biggest overhaul of the system since World War Two and is central to the president’s drive to make the French labor force more flexible and more competitive globally. He says the myriad special benefits handed out to different types of worker deter mobility within the job market.