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Strikes, protests hit France in round 2 of pension battle

A traveler checks his smartphone in a regional train at the Montparnasse train station Jan. 31, in Paris.Michel Euler/Associated Press

PARIS — French labor leaders hope to bring more than 1 million demonstrators again into the streets Tuesday in the latest clash of wills with the government over its plans to push back France’s retirement age.

For both sides, the nationwide strikes and protests are an important test. French President Emmanuel Macron's government says it is determined to push through his election pledge to reform France's pension system. Labor unions and left-wing legislators fighting in parliament against Macron's plans are counting on protesters to turn out massively to strengthen their efforts to kill the bill.

A first round of strikes and protests brought out between 1 million and 2 million demonstrators earlier this month, including many tens of thousands in Paris. Labor leaders are aiming to at least match or even better those numbers on Tuesday, with another big demonstration planned Tuesday afternoon in Paris and close to 250 others expected elsewhere.


Positions are hardening on both sides as lawmakers begin locking horns in parliament over the government's bill that would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64.

On Monday, Macron described the reform as “essential.” His prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, insisted this past weekend that raising the retirement age to 64 is “no longer negotiable.”

Strikes and protesters intend to prove otherwise.

Rail operator SNCF warned of major network disruptions Tuesday because of strikes. It recommended that passengers cancel or postpone trips and work remotely if possible.

Strikes also hit some schools and other sectors. Radio station France Inter played music instead of its usual morning talk shows and apologized to its listeners because employees are striking.