Strikes in France have turned violent after police fired tear gas and stun grenades at demonstrators in central Paris.

Protesters dressed in black, with some wearing scarves and masks, overturned bins, tried to smash advertising hoardings and hurled projectiles at police lines in Place de la Nation.

Demonstrators are angry over plans to overhaul a pension system that allows workers to retire as early as their fifties.

Police fired tear gas at protesters in Nantes as hundreds took to the streets for an anti-pension reform march.
Clashes in France over pension reforms

Officers have said the clashes involved “black block” anarchists, a small minority of the otherwise peaceful protesters.

The country’s electric grid operator RTE said on Tuesday that some of its employees had deliberately cut power to tens of thousands of homes around France as part of nationwide demonstrations.

People gather in Place De La Nation as smoke rises from small fires lit at the end of a demonstration in Paris
Image: Demonstrators gathered in Place de la Nation, Paris

France has said it is sticking to plans to raise the retirement age to 64, despite the strikes across the country which have ground it to a halt.

Teachers, doctors, lawyers and workers at the Eiffel Tower are among people who have travelled to Paris to protest at the plans.

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Workers are striking across the country, including in Paris
Image: Workers are striking across France

Although last week, the government made concessions by delaying the roll-out of the changes and opened the door for new negotiations.

Thousands of workers lit red flares and marched beneath union flags through French cities – from Brittany on the Atlantic, to the Pyrenees in the south – to oppose Emmanuel Macron’s proposals.

Workers lit red flares and marched beneath union flags through French cities
Image: Workers lit red flares and marched beneath union flags through French cities

The strikers also want to preserve a welfare system they fear their business-friendly president wants to dismantle.

Pressure is mounting on Mr Macron after the key architect of his pension overhaul resigned on Monday over alleged conflicts of interest.

French labour union members and workers have joined protests in Paris
Image: French labour union members and workers have joined protests in Paris

But government spokeswoman Sibeth Ndiaye said: “The reform remains. We will not withdraw it”.

It was the thirteenth straight day of demonstrations, which caused travel chaos for commuters and tourists, as train drivers were also among those taking part.

A protester passes by flares during a demonstration in Lyon
Image: Flares during a rally in Lyon

Parents also faced school closures and students have had key exams cancelled.

Hospitals, which have brought in extra workers, were also affected as nurses, doctors and pharmacists joined the strikes to demonstrate against cuts.

Police officers barricaded Mr Macron’s Elysee Palace hours ahead of a protest through the capital, bracing for potential violence by yellow vest activists or other radical demonstrators angry over what they have described as economic injustice.

French labour union members and workers have joined protests in Paris
Image: French labour union members and workers have joined protests in Paris

He argues France must follow other European countries in raising the retirement age or cutting pensions, to keep up with lengthening life expectancy and slowing economic growth.

Unions fear people will have to work longer for lower pensions, and polls suggest at least half of French people still support the industrial action.

However, frustration is building as only two of the 16 lines on the Paris subway ran as usual on Tuesday – and only a quarter of the high-speed trains that crisscross the country.

International lines have also been affected and unions at the SNCF rail authority want to keep the strike going over the Christmas holidays, leaving the government scrambling for solutions.