France enters crucial week of talks with unions on pensions

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is preparing to launch a crucial week of negotiations with labour unions amid nationwide protests and transport strikes against the government’s plans to overhaul the pension system.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter radio that “a compromise has never been so close”, as talks between the Prime Minister and worker unions are to resume today. Macron held a Cabinet meeting yesterday ahead of the talks.

The government is “not inflexible”, Le Maire said, suggesting there is room for negotiation including on the financing of the pension system.

Several unions called for nationwide protests on Thursday and Saturday. The hard-left union CGT union also called for workers to disrupt the country’s oil depots and refineries later this week.

The national rail company, SNCF, said train traffic was improving yesterday across the country, with eight out of 10 high-speed trains running.

Yet the Paris metro was still severely disrupted, with most of lines open only for a limited amount of time and several stations closed.

Commuters exit the Paris subway during the 32th day of transport strikes on January 5. PHOTO: AP