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Paris braces for transport strike over pension reform

Public transport in Paris will be disrupted Thursday as unions stage a first strike over President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to push back the retirement age, at a time when worries about soaring inflation dominate headlines.

Bus and tram lines will be the most impacted, along with the heavily used RER B suburban train line, though metro traffic and other suburban lines should be “normal,” the RATP transport operator said late Wednesday.

The labour action led by the hard-line CGT union calls on the government to “raise salaries, not the retirement age”.

Macron promised action on pensions during his successful re-election campaign earlier this year.

He argues that the pay-as-you-go system is not financially sustainable as people live longer, and that the official retirement age of 62 needs to gradually increase to 64 or 65.

But Macron lost his centrist majority in parliament last June, and his allies are wary of alienating voters by resuming an explosive reform that prompted huge strikes before it was abandoned two years ago amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

Having hoped to push back retirement as part of a Social Security financing bill debated as soon as next week, Macron is now weighing an amendment in parliament in January, press reports said this week.

The president is hosting his cabinet and leading lawmakers for a dinner Wednesday to lay out his strategy, which has divided even members of his own pro-business party.

His government has indicated that if blocked in parliament, it could resort to a rarely used constitutional measure, known as article 49.3, that would force the reform’s adoption without a vote.

But the tactic could set up a months-long clash with unions: An opinion poll from Odoxa last week found that 55 percent of respondents did not want the reform and 67 percent said they were ready to support protests against it.