French unions dig in after Macron defends pension reform
PARIS, Mar 23: French unions on Thursday staged a new day of disruption against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform after he defiantly vowed to implement the change, with refineries at a standstill and mass transport cancellations.
Interrupted supply from refineries has raised concern over fuel shortages for planes at Paris airports, adding to a growing list of headaches in the crisis that include growing piles of rubbish in Paris and questions over the looming state visit of King Charles III.
Macron on Wednesday said he was prepared to accept unpopularity because the bill raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 was "necessary" and "in the general interest of the country".
Protests were planned across the country on Thursday, in the latest day of nationwide stoppages that began in mid-January against the pension changes.
Some 12,000 police, including 5,000 in Paris, were to be deployed during the day, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has said.
In an early action Thursday, protesters blocked road access to Terminal 1 at the capital's Charles de Gaulle airport, French television pictures showed.
Half of all high-speed trains were cancelled, national railway operator SNCF said, after union sources reported around a third of staff would be striking.
At least half the trains into Paris from the suburbs were not running.
In the suburb of Nanterre, Paul Kantola, a 57-year-old carpenter, said he had to wake up at 5:00 am to be able to get to work, but said he agreed with the protesters. �AFP