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Wednesday 18 January 2023

Why you might want to avoid France this week

The French love a good strike. Almost as much as they love a good protest march.

When I lived in Paris, grèves and manifestations were almost weekly occurrences. Usually well-regulated affairs. Occasionally rowdy and violent.

This week, a nationwide strike has been called for. That's a grève générale, with multiple work sectors walking out.

Want to catch a train? Forget it. Do some banking? No chance. Deal with an office matter? No way.

The big strike is proposed for Thursday, January 18, with workers rallying to protest President Macron's plan to reform the pension system, and increase the retirement age to 64 from the current 62.

The pension reform was a key part of President Macron's manifesto when he was elected to power the first time in 2017, and when he was re-elected in April 2022.

In response, unions across all sectors are planning to walk out, including rail workers, public servants, truck drivers, bank staff and teachers.

So, no Paris Metro, no TGV trains, not even any live music.

Several unions are also planning stoppages either side of the strike day.

It could be long, and it could be ugly. But it will be very French.

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