France set for further transport chaos on sixth day of pension strikes
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Travellers across France braced for a sixth day of turmoil on Tuesday amid massive strike action over government plans to overhaul the pension system.
Union leaders on Monday rejected the government's overtures and vowed to keep up the fight over the reforms, which are set to be finalised and published later this week.
Another mass demonstration is planned in Paris and other cities, with teachers and other workers once again expected to walk out alongside transport workers.
The unions want President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his plan for a single pension scheme that would scrap dozens of individual ones enjoyed by train drivers, sailors, lawyers and other professions.
Critics say it will force millions to work later in life to get the same benefits but Macron has promised not to touch the official retirement age of 62.
Most Paris metro lines were shut completely on Monday leading to huge traffic jams — similar disruption is expected on Tuesday.
Just one in five high-speed TGV trains were running, and Air France has cut 25 percent of domestic flights scheduled for Tuesday and 10 percent of its shorter international flights.
Some Paris museums were again forced to partially close and both opera houses cancelled again cancelled performances.
Many people chose to work from home last week and are only now returning to work, making this week a crucial test of public support for the strike.
"Psychologically it's stressful because you don't know if you're going to get where you need to," said Benit Ntende as he waited for a train at Paris' Saint-Lazare station.
"You have to wake up earlier — it's one of the joys of life in Paris."
Some 53 percent of French backed the strike or at least had sympathy for the workers' demands, according to a poll published on Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
The government's pensions commissioner Jean-Paul Delevoye held a final meeting with union leaders on Monday to try to end the strike.
But unions appear in no mood for further negotiations — 800,000 people turned out last Thursday at the start of the strike, the biggest show of strength in years.
"I will not negotiate over the implementation of what I describe as a monstrosity which endangers tomorrow's pensioners," said Yves Veyrier, head of the militant Force Ouvrière union.
Last week, transport workers were joined by teachers, firefighters, electricity workers and "Yellow Vest" anti-government demonstrators — who launched weekly protests to demand improved living standards last year.
Hospital interns plan to walk out on Tuesday to highlight "degraded care" and lorry driver unions said they would take action next week.
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