French PM, unions fail to break pension strike deadlock as Christmas looms

Protesters march in Paris on Dec 19, 2019, on the 15th day of a nationwide multi-sector strike against the French government's pensions overhaul. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (REUTERS) - The French government failed to break the deadlock over a planned overhaul of the pension system on Thursday (Dec 19), prompting union leaders to reaffirm the continuation of strikes over the Christmas holiday season.

Two weeks of nationwide industrial action in France have crippled transport, at times shut schools and brought more than half a million people onto the street against President Emmanuel Macron's wide-ranging reform plan.

The leader of the hardline CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said unions had decided to hold further strikes and demonstrations on Jan 9 after the meeting with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

"The prime minister hasn't heard what the street is saying," Martinez told reporters after the talks.

The prime minister said progress had been made.

A statement from the CGT-led union coalition said there would be no truce over Christmas, when millions of French people travel to spend the holiday with their families.

Unions oppose Macron's plans to streamline France's state pension system and push people to work until 64, instead of the legal retirement age of 62.

The leader of the more moderate CFDT union, while refraining from calling for demonstrations on Jan 9, said he still disagreed with the government over the issue of incentivising people to work over the age of 62 to draw a full pension.

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