French transportation strike nears longest walkout in history

France saw the 23rd straight day of a transportation strike on Friday, which is now the nation’s longest such walkout in nearly a quarter-century.

French riot police clash with protesters during a demonstration against pension reforms in Paris, France, on December 5. Photo by Ian Langsdon

The strike has limited rail and other public transportation for more than three weeks. The workers walked out on Dec. 5.

Paris and regional lines are being hampered by the train and metro transport strike, in which workers are opposing a proposal to merge 42 existing pension plans into a point-based system.

The strike has idled more than 40 percent of train operators, a little more than half on popular high-speed trains. In Paris, only two of the 16 metro lines were running Friday.

The strike now threatens to top France’s longest transportation strike ever — a 28-day walkout over the Christmas holiday in 1986. The last transportation strike to surpass three weeks occurred in 1995.

Laurent Pietraszewski, leader of the pension reform plan, said Tuesday the government would consider amending the plan.

“It’s a strong movement and still supported by public opinion,” said union leader Philipe Martinez.

Talks before Christmas failed to bring the strike to a halt, and new negotiations aren’t expected until Jan. 6.

French President Emmanuel Macron has supported the pension changes, saying it would be fairer and more resilient as the nation’s retirement population grows. Opponents argue it would force workers to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62.

ByClyde Hughes