Massive worker walkouts and thousands of protesters marching, in what has been billed as the largest protest of its kind since 1995, have paralyzed transportation across France, with 90 percent of the country’s trains brought to a standstill and forced Air France forced to cancel 30 percent of its domestic flights.
The strike also forced France’s most iconic tourist spots to shut their doors. The Eiffel Tower and the Orsay museum did not open on Thursday due to staff shortages, while the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre and other museums said some of its exhibits would not be available for viewing.
A nationwide union strike against pension reform, which is expected to continue until Monday, was called in the hope of forcing President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his plans to overhaul France’s pension system. In Paris, 11 of the city’s 16 metro lines were shuttered and schools in the capital and across the country closed down.
According to local media, Yellow Vest protesters are blocking fuel depots in the Var department in the south and near the city of Orleans. As a result, on Thursday over 200 gas stations had totally run out of fuel while over 400 were almost out of stock. The group has been demonstrating against Macron’s austerity measures for over a year.
Experts say that the strike, described as the largest of its kind in decades, could spell trouble for Macron. Building on ongoing demonstrations by the Yellow Vests, the strike could paralyze France and force Macron to rethink his planned reforms.
Macron has proposed making a single, points-based pension system which he said would be fairer to workers while also saving the state money. Labor unions oppose the move, arguing that the changes would require millions of people to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 in order to receive their full pension.