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France's labor unions launched a third wave of national strikes on Tuesday against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to make the French raise the retirement age, which is being considered by parliament.

Trains were cancelled, schools remained closed and refinery supplies halted as workers across multiple sectors walked off the job and unions again called on their members for mass protests.

The government says people need to work two years longer - meaning until the age of 64 for most - to keep the budget of one of the most generous pension systems in the industrialized world.

The French spend the most years in retirement among OECD countries - a deeply valued advantage that a significant majority are reluctant to give up, surveys show

Labor Minister Olivier Dussopt dismissed opposition accusations that the government downplayed the scale of the country's street protests last month and said change was needed.

"The pension system is losing money and if we care about the system, we have to save it," the minister told RMC radio.

Pension reform in France enters the lower house of parliament despite pressure from the street

Philippe Martinez, leader of the far-left CGT union, said Macron was playing a "dangerous game" by pushing for the deeply unpopular reform at a time when households are facing high inflation.

Energy giant TotalEnergies said supplies of refined petroleum products from its sites had been halted due to the strike.

Electricity generation down 3.7 gigawatts (GW)

The government says the reform will deliver gross savings of more than €17 billion a year by 2030.

Unions and left-wing opponents of the reform, however, argue that the money can be found elsewhere, especially from the wealthy.

Conservative opponents, whose support Macron needs for a working majority in the National Assembly, want concessions for those starting work young.

More than one million people marched in French cities in the first two days of strike action in January, as public pressure mounted against a government that insists it will stand by its positions on key components of pension reform.

In parliament, more than 20,000 amendments lie before lawmakers, most of them from the left-wing Nupes alliance.

But because the reform is included in an annual social security bill, the government can send it to the Senate in just two weeks.

In a concession to the Conservatives, Prime Minister Elizabeth Bourne has proposed allowing some people who start work early to also retire early - but Republican (LR) MPs are divided over whether the proposed starting age of 20-21 is enough low.

"Someone who starts work early stops work early. What is so hard to understand @Elisabeth_Borne," tweeted Aurelien Prady, LR's leading critic of the current proposal.



pension reform