Paris – A massive strike paralysed Paris public transports on Friday as unions protested a sweeping pension reform by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government.
Paris public transport company RATP said 10 metro lines were closed and several others, including the RER suburban rail, were severely disrupted. Buses and trams were also affected.
On platforms, messages in French and English were warning passengers of the strike, the biggest since 2007.
Trains that were still circulating were noticeably less crowded than usual, as authorities recommended people living in the Paris region to work from home or choose other means of transport.
The government website monitoring roads showed major traffic jams in and around the French capital.
RATP employees are protesting a pension reform planned for next year that is expected to make them work longer before retirement.
At Le Vesinet, west of Paris, commuter Benjamin Royoux, who uses his electric scooter to circulate in Paris city center, said he was "rather pleasantly surprised" to find that there were trains every 15 minutes.
Royoux has concerns, however, that there could be more strikes. "One day is going to be ok. But if it continues … we’ll see."
Paris City Hall employee Catherine Reine, also waiting for her RER at Le Vesinet, said she supports the workers’ strike "because they are very afraid for their future, and I think it’s normal."
RATP employees are among workers from some specific professions who benefit from a special pension regime, currently allowing them to retire with a full pension earlier than most French people.
Macron wants an overhaul of the pension system, saying the changes would make the public pension system "fairer." He has promised the legal retirement age will remain at 62 but new conditions will encourage people to work longer before retiring.
The government also wants to apply the same rules to all new pensioners in order to replace the 42 different systems specific to certain jobs.
The reform will be formally presented and debated at parliament next year.