Striking workers shut down Eiffel Tower amid ‘Black Friday’ protests

Striking workers in France initiated new mass protests Friday — closing the iconic Eiffel Tower in the process — as the government in Paris went ahead with controversial retirement laws that are the root cause of the demonstrations.

A man wearing a jacket of the French National Railway Company SNCF holds flares during a mass demonstration Friday in Marseille, France. Photo by Sebastien Nogier

More than 350,000 workers marched in Paris for the “Black Friday” rallies to oppose the new laws, which raise the early retirement age. French President Emmanuel Macron signed the cabinet bills on Friday, saying they will streamline what has become an increasingly expensive pension system.

Paris’ Eiffel Tower closed on Friday because its workers participated in the strikes.

“Due to a national strike, I’m closed today,” the tower’s Twitter account posted.

Friday marked the 51st day of nationwide protests in France. Earlier strikes this week included a three-day walkout at Rouen shipyards, the closure of France’s largest electricity plant and power outage for about 50,000 people in Paris and a torchlight parade.

Polls indicate that more than 60 percent of French citizens oppose the controversial pension reforms, which consolidates 42 different pension schemes into a single, points-based system.

The greatest protest Friday was in Paris, but police said 9,000 marched in Lyon, 8,000 in Marseille, 7,500 in Bordeaux and Le Havre, 5,200 in Nantes, 5,000 in Toulouse, 4,400 in Clermont-Ferrand and 4,000 in Rennes and Caen.

Philippe Martinez, leader of France’s largest trade union, said the government is “refusing to recognize the discontent” of the French workforce.

Opponents of the change say it obligates workers to retire later and receive lesser pensions. The government has already pulled back from original plans to raise the full pension age from 62 to 64.

A transit strike earlier this month was the longest in the national railroad’s history.

ByEd Adamczyk