France braces for 'hellish Thursday' as pension strikes loom

France is to face severe public transport disruptions on Thursday, operators have warned, as workers join a nationwide strike against a widely unpopular pension reform plan.

The suggested changes, still to be debated in parliament, would raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 and increase contributions required for a full pension.

The industrial action across different sectors on Thursday will be the first time in 12 years -- since that age was increased from 60 to 62 -- that all of France's unions are united.

"It'll be a hellish Thursday," Transport Minister Clement Beaune told broadcaster France 2 on Tuesday, urging all those who could to work from home.

Paris public transport operator RATP warned services would be diminished, with three metro lines out of service, and ten others only operating partially.

Services would continue as normal on just two automated lines, though they risked being overcrowded, it said.

Elsewhere in the country, national train operator SNCF said many high-speed trains would be out of action, with just one in five maintaining their journeys in some areas.

Most slow trains between cities would be halted.

Up to 70 percent of nursery and primary school teachers are also expected to refuse to work, the education ministry has said.

Opinion polls show that around two-thirds of French people oppose raising the retirement age, a move that comes amid high inflation and with the country still recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.

President Emmanuel Macron's last attempt at pension reform in 2019, aborted a year later when Covid-19 hit Europe, prompted the longest strike on the Paris transport network in three decades.

The 45-year-old centrist put the issue at the heart of his successful re-election campaign last year, pointing to forecasts that the system would fall into heavy deficit at the end of the decade.

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