Sweden braces for traffic chaos amid strike threats

As unions threaten to pull bus, train and underground staff, commuters may experience severe disruptions ahead of the Midsummer weekend.

Sweden braces for traffic chaos amid strike threats

A bus strike Wednesday, a halt to Pendeltåg commuter train and underground traffic in the three biggest cities on Thursday, plus a potential cleaners’ strike could leave many stranded in the coming week.

Anyone considering a Midsummer makeover may also have to scupper those plans as hair dressers have warned of a walkout, too.

In total, five strikes could break out due to labour disputes.

The Kommunal union has threatened to halt bus traffic in Stockholm and in Umeå in the north on Wednesday, and the strike could also spread to other cities in the following week.

On Thursday, the Seko union may pull Pendeltåg commuter train drivers in Malmö, Gothenburg and Stockholm, which would leave those traveling to and from Sweden’s three biggest cities stranded.

The red line on Stockholm’s underground network, which covers 36 stops, may also be affected.

In addition, the Seko and Fastighets unions have warned of a cleaners’ strike at a number of major industry plants around the country. Seko also plans to pull over 1,000 telecoms employees on Wednesday.

In most cases employers have responded with a lockout from work places and on Sunday mediators were working intensively to resolve the disputes.

Representatives of those involved in the bus conflict planned to meet for negotiations on Sunday.

“We will see if there is a possibility for them to make an offer,” Peter Jeppsson, CEO of the Swedish Bus and Coach Employers’ Association (Bussarbetsgivarna), told news agency TT.

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Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron’s pension plan

Demonstrators in France took to the streets Saturday for a seventh day of protest against President Emmanuel Macron's pension reform plans, with police expecting up to a million people at rallies nationwide.

Hundreds of thousands take to streets against Macron's pension plan

Unions hope they can still force Macron to back down as parliament debates the draft law, with the National Assembly and the Senate moving towards a final vote as early as this month.

“This is the final stretch,” said Marylise Leon, deputy leader of the CFDT union. “The endgame is now,” she told the franceinfo broadcaster Saturday.

This week, Macron twice turned down urgent calls by unions to meet with him in a last-ditch attempt to get him to change his mind.

“When there are millions of people in the streets, when there are strikes and all we get from the other side is silence, people wonder: What more do we need to do to be heard?”, said Philippe Martinez, boss of the hard-left CGT

“This country’s leaders need to stop being in denial of this social movement,” said CFDT head Laurent Berger on Saturday.

Police said they expect between 800,000 and one million people at 230 planned demonstrations across France, of which up to 100,000 were likely to march in Paris.

It was the second protest day called on a weekend, with unions hoping that demonstrators would show up in greater numbers if they did not have to take a day off work.

“I’m here to fight for my colleagues and for our young people,” said Claude Jeanvoine, 63, a retired train driver demonstrating in Strasbourg, eastern France. “People shouldn’t let the government get away with this, this is about the future of their children and grandchildren,” he told AFP.

READ ALSO: 5 minutes to understand … French pension reform 

At the last big strike and protest day on Tuesday, turnout was just under 1.3 million people, according to police, and more than three million according to unions.

Several sectors in the French economy have been targeted by union calls for indefinite strikes, including in rail and air transport, power stations, natural gas terminals and rubbish collection.

The French Senate, meanwhile, early Saturday resumed debate on the reform whose headline measure is a hike in the minimum retirement age to 64 from 62.

Senators have until Sunday evening to conclude their discussions, and a commission is then to elaborate a final version of the draft law which will be submitted to both houses of parliament for a final vote.

Should Macron’s government fail to assemble a majority ahead of the vote, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne could deploy a rarely-used constitutional tool, known as article 49/3, to push the legislation through without a vote.

An opinion poll published by broadcaster BFMTV Saturday found that 63 percent of French people approve the protests against the reform, and 54 percent were also in favour of the strikes and blockages in some sectors.

Some 78 percent, however, said they believed that Macron would end up getting the reform adopted.

READ ALSO: LATEST: How strikes will affect France this weekend