By Hugh Schofield
President Macron’s reform programme faces a make-or-break moment, as French unions stage a day of mass strikes and protests against his plans to push back the age of retirement.
A new bill due to go through parliament will raise the official age at which people can stop work from 62 to 64.
Public transport has been badly hit and many schools are closed.
Turnout was significant at some of the 200-plus protests across France. The biggest is due to take place in Paris.
The big unions were set to march from the Place de la République across the city during the afternoon.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched during the morning in cities including Nantes, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and Toulouse, as train drivers, public sector workers and refinery staff walked out.
On some rail lines, as few as one in 10 services were operating, while the Paris metro was running a skeleton service. The main secondary education union said 65% of teachers were on strike, although the education ministry said it was 35%.
Philippe Martinez, head of the CGT union, predicted more than a million people would take to the streets. Police were out in force in Paris in case of violence from ultra-left “black bloc” infiltrators.
Under the proposals outlined earlier this month by Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, from 2027 people will have to work 43 years to qualify for a full pension, as opposed to 42 years now.