Chaotic scenes of violence were seen across France on Thursday, with police firing pepper spray at protesters, as strikes against Emmanuel Macron’s entered their 36th day.

Trade unions led doctors, lawyers, teachers and others in marches after negotiations with the government failed to end the stand-off over president Macron’s proposed pension reforms. 

Protests were staged in Paris, Marseille, Lyon and other French cities, marking the fourth day of major demonstrations since the strikes began on 5 December.

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Clashes between police and protestors were once again shared across social media, with police appearing to spray pepper spray outside a school in Chalon-sur-Saône in Burgundy.

A 61-year-old protestor was also injured in Rouen after reportedly being struck on the head by a police baton.

Regional, national and international train services continue to be disrupted, while Paris metro traffic was cut for most of the day on all but two lines.

The transport strikes, which are now entering their sixth week, are the longest since national rail operator SNCF was established in 1938. Millions of passengers have been affected and the company has lost hundreds of millions in revenue.

Under Macron’s reforms, France’s 42 different pension schemes would be unified into a single universal system, however critics say it will mean many will be forced to work longer for less.

The most controversial part of the reform is the plan to raise the full retirement age from 62 to 64, which Prime Minister Edouard Philippe claims is necessary in order to balance the pension budget.

A new round of negotiations between the trade unions and the government will begin on Friday, with the French president calling for a quick compromise to end the deadlock.

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Macron made the reforms a key part of his electoral campaign when he came to power in 2017 and has offered little compromise on the key proposals to date. It has united the country’s far left and far right in opposition, as well as drawn in nearly every sector of society.

Lawyers symbolically threw off their robes and blocked the entrance to the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Nanterre on Thursday, while similar action took place in cities across France.

On Wednesday, firefighters sprayed foam over the townhall in Le Havre​, where Prime Minister Philippe served as mayor between 2012 and 2017.


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