French trade unions threaten MPs, billionaires with power cuts during nationwide strike

French trade unions threaten MPs, billionaires with power cuts during nationwide strike
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PARIS, Jan 18 (Reuters) – France’s hardline CGT union threatened to cut off electricity to lawmakers and billionaires ahead of a nationwide strike on Thursday in increasingly bitter protest over a government plan to raise the pension age.

The proposed bill, announced last week, would see the retirement age raised from 62 to 64, which opinion polls show is opposed by a large majority of workers already facing a cost-of-living crisis.

In France, workers in sectors including transport, education and energy will go on strike on Thursday, with large protests expected in Paris and other cities.

The industrial action is being seen as a test of whether unions, which have struggled to persuade people to strike in recent years, can turn that anger into mass social protest.

“I suggest they also see the beautiful estates, the beautiful castles of the billionaires,” Philippe Martinez, leader of the CGT, France’s second-largest trade union, said on Wednesday.

“It would be better if we cut off their electricity and put themselves in the position of the French who can’t pay their bills for a few days.”

In recent days, S├ębastien Menesplier from the CGT’s energy and mining department has also threatened to cut off electricity targeting MPs’ offices.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran said threats of power cuts were “unacceptable”.

Public transport will be most affected on Thursday, with most trains canceled as well as some flights and the Paris Metro severely disrupted.

Seven out of 10 primary school teachers will quit, as will many refinery workers, unions and transport operators.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there would be more than 10,000 police on the ground during the protests, with a third of them in Paris.

There could be as many as 1,000 potentially violent people at the rallies in Paris on Thursday, according to police intelligence, which he told RTL radio said were from the radical left or the former Yellow Vests movement.

There is France history for decades Attempts to reform Europe’s most generous and costly pension system, and the protests trying to stop them.

This resulted in 1995, when millions of people took to the streets in the country’s most destructive social protests in decades. But despite the protests, a number of other pension reforms have been implemented since then.

The reform has yet to be passed in parliament, where President Emmanuel Macron lacks an absolute majority but hopes to win votes from the conservative Les Republicans party.

Reporting by Jean-Stephane Brosse, Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander; Edited by Raissa Kasolowsky

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