France’s ‘Black Thursday’ strikes close schools, halt trains

PARIS — France faced some of the most coordinated strikes in years on Thursday, which could evolve into weeks of discontent as unions seek to show a united front against

plans to raise the country’s sacred retirement age from 62 to 64. Many schools, oil refineries, power plants, public broadcasters, airports and train stations were

expected to remain closed or to be severely disrupted on what some calling “Black Thursday.” Unions said they hope for at least 1 million protesters in the streets later in the

day. For President Emmanuel Macron, who is only eight months into his second 5-year term, the retirement overhaul is a crucial project. If he fails, “the image of Macron

as a reformer is over,” said Bruno Cautrès, a researcher at Sciences Po in Paris, who cited little progress on overhauling the public sector and reducing the government deficit

over the past five years. France’s winter advice: Brace for power outages — but no panic, please The French left and far-right both oppose Macron’s retirement age plans.

But with a number of conservative lawmakers having signaled support for Macron, the challenge for his government may be less to convince parliament — where it could ultimately

push the law through with emergency constitutional powers — and more to get the French public on board. In a recent survey, more than two-thirds of respondents said they oppose

the plans. “The government has already lost the first battle,” far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon said Thursday. “No one believes in the merit of the arguments

presented by the government.”