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Photos: French workers stage mass strike against pension reform

More than 250 protests have been held in France’s capital Paris and across the country against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms, with garbage collectors, utilities, machinists and others losing their jobs against the proposed legislation.

On Tuesday, an estimated 1.28 million people across the country demonstrated against Macron’s plans to lower the retirement age to 64, the interior ministry said. The protests come weeks after an estimated 1.27 million people took part in the previous round of protests.

Large crowds took to the streets in Paris, Marseilles, Nice and other cities. Minor clashes with police broke out in Nantes, Rennes and Lyon.

In the French capital, workers, families and activists gathered in a joyful atmosphere as they chanted slogans.

Despite the Paris march being largely peaceful, some sporadic scuffles broke out on the sidelines, with some people throwing projectiles at police who responded with tear gas.

Unions threatened to freeze the French economy with work stoppages in multiple sectors, the most visible being the strike at the SNCF national railway authority.

Some unions have called for indefinite strikes in sectors from refineries and oil depots to electricity and gas installations. Workers in each industry will make that decision locally in the evening, Martinez said.

All oil shipments in the country were halted on Tuesday due to strikes at the refineries of the TotalEnergies, Esso-ExxonMobil and Petroineos groups, the CGT said.

Truck drivers have sporadically blocked major arterial roads and interchanges in go-slow actions near several cities in French regions.

One fifth of flights were canceled at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and about one third of flights at Orly Airport. Trains to Germany and Spain were expected to come to a halt, and those to and from the United Kingdom and Belgium will be reduced by a third, the SNCF rail authority said.

Most high-speed trains and regional trains have been cancelled.

Public transport and other services were disrupted in most French cities. In Paris, the Eiffel Tower was closed, as was the Palace of Versailles, west of the capital.

About a third of teachers across the country are on strike, according to the Ministry of Education.

The reform would raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 and require 43 years of work to earn a full pension by 2030, among other measures. The government has argued that the system is expected to plunge into a deficit within a decade as France’s population ages and life expectancy lengthens.

The bill will be debated this week in the French Senate.