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Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
national strike

Multiple Aer Lingus and Ryanair flights from Ireland cancelled today due to major strike in France

The strike action has been planned over President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms.

MULTIPLE FLIGHTS TO and from Ireland that were scheduled for today have been cancelled as one of France’s biggest nationwide strikes in years takes place. 

Along with hundreds of flight cancellations, some 90% of high-speed trains have been axed for today, most of the Paris metro will be shut and the majority of schools in the strike over President Emmanuel Macron’s planned pension reforms. 

Yesterday, Ryanair issued a statement confirming that it has been forced to cancelled a number of flights scheduled for today as a result of the strike. 

Affected customers have been informed by SMS message and email, which advises them of their option of a free move to an alternative flight or a refund. 

Those who have not received an email or SMS message can expected their flights to operate as scheduled. 

“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by this national strike. We will do everything we can to minimise your disruption, which is sadly beyond our control,” Ryanair said. 

Aer Lingus also confirmed yesterday that its flights EI524 (Dublin to Paris) and EI525 (Paris to Dublin) that were scheduled for today have been cancelled. 

Customers whose flights have been cancelled have been notified, according to Aer Lingus, and can choose to rebook or opt for a refund. 

The airline also warned that other European flights may be cancelled or delayed due to the strike. 

“We’re monitoring closely to determine how the ongoing strike will affect our schedule into the weekend,” Aer Lingus said. 

Air France has said it is axing 30% of its internal flights and 15% of short-haul international routes today. 

British low-cost carrier EasyJet has cancelled 223 domestic and short-haul international flights and warned others risk being delayed.

What’s the strike about exactly? 

The strike – which is open-ended and could last several days – has drawn comparisons between the struggle between government and unions in November and December 1995 when the country was paralysed for some three weeks. 

It has come about as a result of Macron’s planned pension reforms. 

The president wants to implement a signature campaign promise that would see a “universal” retirement system. 

It would do away with 42 “special regimes” for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera employees, which often grant workers higher pensions or early retirement.

However, unions say the changes would effectively require millions of private-sector workers to work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 if they want to receive the full pension they have been promised.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, who has acknowledged French workers will gradually work longer, is set to unveil details of the reform on 12 December.

Radical fringe

Macron is regarded to have seen off the threat posed by the “yellow vest” protesters whose weekly demonstrations against the lack of equality shook France since November last year. 

However, their anger could feed into the strike movement called by the unions. 

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said yesterday that 245 demonstrations were expected nationwide today, and warned that a radical fringe of demonstrators could cause trouble.

“We know there will be lots of people in these protests and we know the risks. I have requested that systematically when there is rioting or violence we make arrests immediately,” he said.

The Le Parisien daily has prophesied that today will be a “black Thursday in transport”. 

But the Le Monde daily argued that channelling the anger of “yellow vests” movement represented both an opportunity but also a risk for the unions, who could lose control of the movement.

“The unions have embarked on an adventure that has little chance of achieving its aim by forcing Emmanuel Macron to give up the reform,” it said in an analysis, arguing that “2019 is not 1995″.

Other planned strikes

Aside from the air traffic strikes, two major demonstrations are planned for Paris that will converge on the Place de la Nation, with officials ordering Paris businesses along the routes to close today.

On the Paris metro, 11 of the city’s 16 lines will shut down completely today, with only the two fully automated lines running as normal.

Rail operator SNCF said 90% of high-speed TGV trains as well as regional trains across the country would be cancelled, while international services like the Eurostar and Thalys would be severely disrupted.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said he expected 55% of teaching staff to strike nationwide today, with 78% walking out in Paris, and just 30% of schools being able to open.

Includes reporting by © AFP 2019  

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