Ten out of 16 subway lines and two major regional train lines were closed when morning rush hour started, leaving commuters scrambling to find alternative ways to get to work.
“I am walking to work today and will be on the streets for at least four hours,” Anthony, 21, who works in a restaurant in western Paris, told Reuters.
Unions are hoping that the strike — the biggest since 2007 — will send a message to Emmanuel Macron’s government as it launches a historic reform of pensions that would see France’s 42 different pension systems condensed into a single points-based system.
But this is not the first time Macron’s government faces massive strikes. Last year, his administration did not give in to rolling strikes over reforms of the state rail company.
However, Macron was politically weakened by the gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protests triggered by concerns over falling living standards and also concerns that the French president was pushing his reform agenda too hard without consulting public opinion first.
But French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he was determined to carry out the pension reform plan.
The pension regime specific to RATP workers allows train drivers and other staff that work underground to retire at 52, a decade earlier than the normal legal retirement age for a full public pension.
Previous reforms have already rolled back some of RATP workers rights and increased how long they have to pay into the system, but workers are worried they will have to make further sacrifices.