France’s pension reform strikes: what will happen next?

More than a million people protested on Tuesday as strikes caused major disruption across the country

Millions marched yesterday, with some disruption continuing today and more strike days planned for this weekend and next week
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Unions have called for two more days of strikes to protest France’s controversial pension reforms.

They want further protests this Saturday (March 11) and another next week, likely Tuesday (March 14) or Wednesday (March 15).

It comes after Tuesday’s strike, which even by police estimates (often lower than that of trade unions) saw more than a million people hit the streets to voice their opposition to raising the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

There was also widespread travel disruption, with fewer trains and planes and blockades at ports, petrol refineries and on some roads.

Strike action and stoppages continued in some sectors today (Wednesday, March 8), including at fuel refineries and on transport services, especially trains.

France’s Transport Minister Clément Beaune told LCI that “Things will improve a bit today (March 8), but will be much better tomorrow (Thursday and Friday).”

Where is strike action continuing on Wednesday?

Fuel refineries

  • Fuel refinery staff are still on strike and deliveries have stopped. But TotalEnergies has said that there is no lack of fuel at petrol stations so far, due to a high level of reserves in place.
  • As much as 70-100% of workers at TotalEnergies refineries are still on strike, said Eric Sellini, at CGT-Chimie.


  • Several ports have been blockaded since early on Wednesday, including Rouen, Havre, and Marseille-Fos.


  • International services are disrupted, with 75% of trains running on Eurostar, two-in-three on Thalys and only a third of services running linking France with Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Spain
  • Only one-in-three high-speed TGV services is running today, with two-in-five trains running on the north, east, and south-east Inoui lines
  • On the Atlantic line, only one-in-four TGV trains is running
  • One-in-three Ouigo trains is running
  • One-in-10 cross-country TGV services is running
  • Intercité trains are also disrupted, with only one-in-five services running, and only one or two trips scheduled for services from Paris-Clermont, Paris-Brive, Nantes-Bordeaux, Bordeaux-Marseille, Clermont and Béziers, Clermont and Lyon, and Toulouse and Hendaye
  • No night Intercités services until Thursday, March 9
  • On TER services, only one-in-three services is running throughout the country

Disruption is also expected tomorrow (March 9), and French rail operator SNCF has “recommended that travellers who can should cancel or postpone their trips”.

Anyone affected by cancelled trains will have received an email or SMS enabling them to exchange their tickets to another train for free, or get a full refund if they choose to cancel completely. This must be done before the train has left.

Read also: Train tickets for the French summer season now on sale

‘France is at a standstill, it’s working well’

Tuesday’s mobilisation marked the sixth day of strikes against the proposed pension reform.

Police said that numbers hit 1.28 million, while the CGT union said there were 3.5 million across France.

Clashes broke out in Paris, with police storming some crowds amid reports that a number of violent ‘black bloc’ groups were taking the opportunity to vandalise some streets and throw projectiles at police.

Yet, Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, hailed the day as a success, calling it a “historic mobilisation”, while Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT, said: “France at a standstill, it’s working well today.”

Nevertheless, union leaders complained of a lack of response from the government. They sent a joint letter to French president Emmanuel Macron, asking for a meeting as soon as possible.

Senate debate controversy

As a day of protests drew to a close, French senators continued to debate the government’s proposals.

Discussions continued overnight until 03:30 until senators from the Socialists (PS), French Communists (PCF) and Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV) left. The debates are set to resume on Wednesday afternoon.

Article 7, which stipulates the minimum pension age should rise from 62 to 64, is arguably one of the most controversial proposals.

Read also: Age, new minimum amount: What does France’s pension reform involve?

Senators debated this proposal for hours (from 19:00 to 01:00), with some left-wingers calling for it to be suppressed.

At around 01:00, Bruno Retailleau, president of The Republicans (LR), demanded the use of article 38 of the Senate regulations, which brought a (temporary) end to the debate. This is the first time that the article has been used since its revision in 2015.

Socialist Patrick Kanner was among those to criticise this use (along with the communist and green party), saying: “Shame on you! … You have allowed yourselves to be gagged by Article 47.1 of the Constitution, [and] now you want to gag the opposition.”

EELV president Guillaume Gontard, said: “On a historic day of action, on the most important article, article 7, you decide to gag Parliament and censure the Senate. This is a serious moment in the history of the Senate. It’s a political choice.”

Eliane Assassi, from the PCF, said: “Using this procedure is an act of weakness. This is an attack on democracy.”

Later, LR Senators proposed that Article 7 be rewritten. The article has been subject to more than 1,000 amendments, with debate over it suspended to allow these amendments to be studied. However, most of them were judged to be “inadmissible”.

Only 75 amendments now remain to be discussed, and the controversial article could be adopted by Tuesday evening.

France’s work minister, Olivier Dussopt, said on France Inter radio station: “We knew right from the start that this reform would be difficult, but we know how necessary it is.”

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