Pension reform protest to hit French rail services

Government due to extend pay-in period from 40.5 years to 43 by 2035
||Last Updated: 09/10/2013

PARIS (Reuters) — French train services face disruption on Tuesday from a strike over plans to reform the country's indebted pension system, but most international links should operate normally, the SNCF rail company said.

The rail strike follows a broader call from the hardline CGT labour union, the dominant one among rail workers, for protests and work stoppages as President Francois Hollande's Socialist government prepares to legislate on the modest reform.

Late night services will be cancelled on many national lines and services on inter-city routes, and some TGV high-speed links will be cut. However cross-border services should run normally, except for links with Spain, an SNCF statement said.

Hollande partially reversed a pension funding overhaul pushed through by predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy despite mass street protests. But his government is now due to extend the pay-in period required for a full pension from 40.5 years to 43 years by 2035, according to the draft law obtained by Reuters.

While the CGT labour union has said it will fight any such extension, it is unclear whether Hollande will face anything like the protests sparked by the previous reform. The other major trade union has refused to join the CGT's battle call.

Hollande, whose popularity is near rock bottom as he strives to reverse a relentless surge in unemployment and revive the economy while shrinking a large public deficit, has ruled out any draconian change to a pension system where those drawing benefit are funded by taxes on those in work.

His approach may curb the risk of strife but falls short of European Commission calls for a rise in the current legal retirement age of 62.

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