The sectors at stake for unions in French pension reform battle

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President Emmanuel Macron’s planned reform of the French pension system has run into massive union-led opposition, with a crippling general strike of mostly public sector workers last Thursday, when transport systems were paralysed and an estimated one million people demonstrated nationwide. While some sectors, notably the railways, remained affected this weekend, another national day of action is called for Tuesday. Union officials have declared that nothing less than a total withdrawal of the reform plans can end the dispute, raising the possibility of rolling strikes throughout December. The showdown will depend in part on what support unions can maintain in the key sectors of transport, schools, energy and healthcare.

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“I am determined to take this pension reform to its completion,” said French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe in an interview published on Sunday by weekly paper Le JDD. But Philippe is due to unveil the detailed contents of the reforms only on Wednesday, and some members of his government, not least economy minister Bruno Le Maire, also speaking on Sunday, have begun hinting at a softening of the planned legislation.