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France braces for biggest national strike in years

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France braces for biggest national strike in yearsParis, Dec 5 (IANS) France is bracing for severe disruption as millions of workers were scheduled to go on strike, deemed the country’s biggest in years, on Thursday in protest at being forced to retire later or face reduced pensions.

School and transport workers will join police, lawyers and hospital and airport staff in a general walkout which was expected to last beyond Thursday, the BBC reported.

The strike was agreed by unions unhappy with President Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a universal points-based pension system. France currently has a system of dozens of different schemes.

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Macron, aware of France’s ageing population, has said his universal pension plan would be fairer than the current system.

On Wednesday, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said he expected almost 250 demonstrations nationwide, some of which he said could turn violent.

A number of yellow-vest protesters known as “gilets jaunes” also said that they planned to join Thursday’s demonstrations.

Due to the strike, only 10 per cent of intercity and high-speed TGV trains will run throughout the day on Thursday, the BBC quoted France’s SNCF rail operator as saying.

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Some regional services will not even run at all. International services such as Eurostar and Thalys will be affected, and the latter has announced a reduced timetable until December 10.

In Paris, metro rail operator RATP warned commuters to expect serious disruption throughout the day. Of the city’s 16 metro lines, just five will be running.

With air-traffic controllers also joining the walkout, 30 per cent of domestic Air France flights will be cancelled, while EasyJet has cancelled more than 200 flights.

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