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French police, energy workers clash over pension reform

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Refinery workers in France have been on strike over the government’s controversial plan for pension reform.

In France, police and refinery workers who were on strike have clashed as nationwide protests continue over pension reform.

Tuesday clashes at ExxonMobil’s oil refinery site in Fos-sur-Mer, near the southern city of Marseille, left three officers seriously injured, according to the Marseille police department.

Energy ministry officials had ordered refinery workers to resume operations. But scuffles broke out as protesters gathered to voice opposition to the government's plan to raise the retirement age to 64.

Protesters threw projectiles at police who had filled the refinery site with smoke from tear gas canisters.

Several refineries in the country were still blocked from delivering products on Tuesday after two weeks of strikes, disrupting production and power supply.

The clashes in Fos were the latest incident amid nationwide social unrest against President Emmanuel Macron's plan for the retirement age, which was forced through parliament without a vote.

In the meantime, Macron's government narrowly survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday.

Macron’s reforms would bring France closer into line with its European neighbors, most of which have retirement ages of 65 or higher. The president is looking to push on past the protests with his reforms, which he put at the center of his re-election campaign last year.

In February, he told journalists the later age was necessary as life expectancy was on the rise.

“There's no miracle: If we want to keep this system going, we need to work longer,” he said as he toured the meat section of the massive Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris.

“Everybody has common sense... On the whole, people know that everybody has to work a little longer on average, otherwise we won't be able to properly fund our pensions,” he said. “If we don't create wealth, we cannot then distribute it.”

The government argues the reforms are necessary to lift its pensions system out of deficit by 2030.

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