French strikes over pension reform plans to disrupt public transport on Tuesday

Third nationwide day of protests in France against pension reform

By Mathieu Rosemain and Benjamin Mallet

PARIS (Reuters) - Industrial action in France over the government's planned pensions overhaul will cause heavy disruption to public transport again on Tuesday, the transport minister and several public transport authorities said on Sunday.

For the sixth time since the start of the year, unions are calling for a nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations, aiming to repeat the large turnout seen on the first major protest on Jan. 19 when more than a million people marched against the pension reform.

"There will be very strong impacts," Transport Minister Clement Beaune said in an interview with France 3 TV station, adding that he expected the strike to be "one of the most difficult ones" for travellers since the start of the protests.

"For many it will be a real hassle", he said.

Some unions, such as the hardline CGT, called for a rolling strike at refineries and at the national railway operator SNCF.

"We are moving up a gear," the head of CGT, Philippe Martinez, told French weekly JDD. "The ball is now in the president's court. It is up to him to withdraw this reform," he said, referring to President Emmanuel Macron.

Macron is pushing for the reform, which would raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, calling it vital to avoid the collapse of the state pension system.

The strikes have already curbed power generation at some of EDF's nuclear plants.

SNCF said in a statement that it expected one high-speed train in five to run on Tuesday. Almost all of its regular Intercites trains will be cancelled, it predicted.

RATP, the public transport operator for the Ile-de-France region around Paris, also said metro lines and suburban trains will be heavily disrupted, with some metro lines only running at peak hours.

France's DGAC aviation authority said earlier this week it had asked airlines to reduce flights by 20% at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and by 30% at Orly airport on March 7-8.

(Reporting by Benjamin Mallet and Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Hugh Lawson)