French unions strike against Macron

French unions strike against Macron

French unions strike against Macron

Almost 50,000 demonstrators protested in Paris to call for more investment in public services.

French rail operator SNCF and aviation authorities warned of major disruptions today as public sector employees and their supporters carry out a one-day strike against low pay and President Emmanuel Macron's reform drive.

Public services workers, including teachers and healthcare staff, chose to walk out in French cities to express their anger over the government's plan to reduce their number by 120,000 within five years and expand the use of short-term contracts.

More than 140 protests have been planned across France in total, with the biggest set to take place at the Bastille monument in Paris in the afternoon, where unions expect 25,000 demonstrators.

Only 40% of high-speed TGV services will be running today, and four Eurostar trains between London and Paris have been cancelled. Around 30% of Paris flights were cancelled and there was airport disruption in the south.

Those cancellations come ahead of a separate strike by Air France pilots and cabin crew Friday seeking a six-per cent raise.

Public sector workers are angry with plans to cut the public sector headcount by 120,000 by 2022, including via voluntary redundancies, and about the introduction of merit-based pay.

But only about one in ten central government workers walked off the job, down from 13 percent in an October strike, a government source said, in a sign that unions may still be struggling to raise the street against the young president.

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On the railways, an overhaul that would strip new recruits of a guaranteed job for life and other benefits have riled unionists who also fear that a restructuring of the SNCF could eventually see it privatised. A growing number of people also said they thought Macron is launching "too many reforms", the poll found.

He already used this strategy to pass labour reforms in September, which loosened France's strict regulations on hiring and firing workers.

What it means: France is changing.

The French government has been trying to push through reforms for years, most notably in 1995. That forced many passengers to cram into the-overcrowded-trains that were running.

How bad could the strikes get?

With the exception of Macron's predecessor Francois Hollande, every French president since Charles de Gaulle has addressed the US Congress.

But Macron appears ready to withstand the pressure, with surveys showing public opinion largely behind his bid to end some of the historic rights of railway workers.

Government officials may also have in mind the fact that the May 1968 revolt that convulsed France started 50 years ago, with a student protest at Nanterre university which few at the time expected to trigger unrest that blocked France for weeks.

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