French roads, fuel deliveries blocked by protesters

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French unions have pledged to bring France to a “standstill” Tuesday in one of the biggest strike actions yet to protest against the government’s proposed pension reform, which includes raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64. Hundreds of thousands of French workers are expected to take to the streets to protest the changes. Follow our blog for the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

10:38am: Why the French take their retirement so seriously

Speaking to FRANCE 24, François Geerolf, an economist at Sciences Po in Paris, explains why the French take their retirement so seriously, noting that the country’s famed 35-hour work week is far from a reality for many of the country’s white-collar workers.

Watch his full explanation in the video below:

10:19am: Rolling strikes

Ahead of the March 7 strikes, major confederations of French trade unions – including the CFDT and CGT – announced they would stage ‘’grèves reconductibles’, or rolling strikes, meaning workers will vote at the end of each strike day on whether to continue industrial action. This means the strikes have no end date, and could go on for days, or even weeks.

9:32am: Major train and flight disruptions

Trains to Germany and Spain are expected to come to a halt Tuesday, and those to and from Britain will be reduced by a third, according to the SNCF rail authority.

In France, only one in five regional and high-speed trains are expected to run, while RATP, the public transport operator for the Ile-de-France region around Paris, has said metro lines and suburban trains will also be heavily disrupted, with some metro lines running only at peak hours.

Around a fifth of flights have been canceled at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport and about a third of flights at Orly Airport.

9:05am: Roads, fuel deliveries blocked

Already in the early hours of Tuesday morning, the protests were already being felt in France, with reports of protesters blocking several roads.

According to the public road information service a national road in the city of Rennes had been blocked by around 100 protesters since 1am.

In a a tweet, the hardline CGTunion said: “On the roads of Rennes, at the port of Gennevilliers, on the roundabouts of Rouen, in the power stations: the vigil of the March 7 strike has already begun.”

Fuel deliveries from refineries across France also came to a standstill. “The strike has begun everywhere… with deliveries blocked from all the refineries this morning,” said Eric Sellini, branch coordinator for CGT, which had launched a similar blockade last autumn that eventually saw petrol stations running out of fuel.

9:00am: More than a million expected to hit the streets

Between 1.1 and 1.4 million people are expected to hit the streets Tuesday in more than 260 locations nationwide, according to a police source cited by AFP.

The upper limit of that range would mean stronger opposition than during the five previous days of rallies that have taken place since mid-January.

On January 31, on the biggest day of demonstrations so far, 1.27 million people demonstrated.

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