Critical week in France's pension reform protests

Talks to break month-long deadlock will resume on Tuesday, while further protests are planned as public support remains strong

The month-long stand-off between the government and France's striking transport workers has entered a critical week, with talks set to resume on Tuesday, and further national protests in store.

The first Council of Ministers' meeting was taking place on Monday, as commuters braced for a difficult return to work after the Christmas break. The ongoing pension reform protests are certain to top the agenda, with strike calls launched on Monday by nurses and physiotherapists' unions. An Air France pilots and flight attendants strike is also disrupting travel plans.

Read more: President pledges to finish pension reforms in New Year speech

Talks intended to break the deadlock are due to resume on Tuesday, when Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due to meet union leaders amid threats from the CGT that it intends to tighten the blockade of refineries, oil terminals and depots.

The big test of strikers' resolve, however, will take place on Thursday and Saturday, when mass protests by the CGT, FO, CFE-CGC, Solidaires and FSU intersyndicale unions are planned.

Read more: More French industries denounce pension reform

The last national protests, led by the united trade union coalition, took place on December 17. Union leaders will hope the first mass strike of the year will garner as much support as the first marches, on December 5.

A total 806,000 marchers joined the first nationwide protests, according to the Interior Ministry. The CGT put the figure at 1.5million. Rail and public transport workers have maintained their strike since then, even during the Christmas holiday period.

Read more (subscriber article): France’s strike actions set to continue

Laurent Brun, secretary general of the CGT Cheminots, told reporters he was confident support for the pension reform strikes remained strong: "We think we will succeed in remobilizing despite the fact that we are in the fifth week of the strike."

And unions intend to maintain the pressure on the government with more protests on Saturday.

A poll published on Friday showed 61% of French people still support the strike, down five points on a December 19th survey, according to pollster Odoxa.

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