French unions call for further strikes over pension reform

PARIS, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- French unions on Tuesday called for two more days of strike action on Feb. 7 and 11, to try to force the government to retract its pension reform plan announced earlier this month.

The French Interior Ministry said that more than 1.2 million people took to the streets across France on Tuesday, to express their anger against the controversial reform that will force employees to work until they are 64.

However, the CGT, France's largest union, said that 2.8 million people marched on Tuesday during the second day of general mobilization.

In the country's major cities, local authorities also registered more demonstrators than on Jan. 19. In Marseille, the Prefecture reported 40,000 demonstrators, compared to 26,000 on Jan. 19.

According to French daily Le Figaro, clashes took place between some demonstrators and police in Paris, and tear gas and smoke bombs were fired.

Police confirmed that 23 people were arrested during the demonstration in Paris for attacking security forces.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on social media that she had heard the "questions and doubts" of those who reject the reform.

However, while speaking on TV channel France 2 the country's Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gabriel Attal ruled out suspending the pension reform project.

"If we do nothing, we will have a big problem paying pensions in the years to come. There will be 20 million pensioners to pay," he said.

At the end of the demonstration on Tuesday evening, the CGT announced its intention to continue strikes at refineries on Feb. 6, 7 and 8.

This could cause production to halt at certain sites, Eric Sellini, coordinator for TotalEnergies, told Le Figaro.

On Jan. 10, Elisabeth Borne laid out details of the pension reform plan, which would progressively raise the legal retirement age by three months a year from 62 to 64 years by 2030, and put in place a guaranteed minimum pension.

Starting in 2027, people would have to work for 43 years to qualify for a full pension.

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