Protesters in France halt high-speed trains and disrupt electricity supplies during nationwide strikes against retirement age reforms in the country.

The majority of trains across the country have been cancelled, while electricity workers have pledged to cut power supplies in protest, with more than 200 rallies expected across the country today.

The strikes were sparked by a bill to raise the nominal retirement age from 62 to 64, meaning more people would have to work longer before receiving a pension.

Unions argue that the pension overhaul threatens hard-won rights and are proposing a tax on the rich or more payroll contributions from employers to fund the pension system.

Employees in sectors such as transport, education and energy are taking part in the strikes.

SNCF said that in addition to French trains, some international routes were also affected.

While around 20% of flights departing from Orly airport in Paris have been canceled and airlines are warning of delays.

Data from utility group EDF and grid operator RTE showed that electricity generation had fallen by around 12% of total electricity supply, prompting France to increase its imports in from neighboring countries.

Signboard of Emmanuel Macron seen during a demonstration
Signboard of Emmanuel Macron seen during a demonstration

In Paris, students blocked at least one high school in support of the strike. Some 65% of secondary school teachers went on strike, the SNES FSU union said.

Police unions opposed to pension reform are also taking part, while those on duty are bracing for possible violence if extremist groups join the protests.

The proposed bill has also been criticized by workers already facing a cost of living crisis, but French President Emmanuel Macron has said reform is the only way to keep the public pension system solvent.

The government officially presents the pension bill on Monday.

Demonstrators attend a demonstration against the French government's pension reform plan in Saint-Nazaire
A man walks on an empty platform at Gare Montparnasse
A man walks on an empty platform at Gare Montparnasse

The changes would mean that workers must have worked for at least 43 years to qualify for a full pension.

For those who do not meet this condition, like many women who have interrupted their careers to raise their children, the retirement age would remain unchanged at 67.

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Those who started working early, before the age of 20, and workers with serious health problems, would be allowed to retire early.

Prolonged strikes met Mr Macron’s latest effort to raise the retirement age in 2019, but he eventually withdrew it after the COVID pandemic.

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