France braces for massive strikes to protest President Macron's reforms

24 March, 2018, 16:54 | Author: Salvatore Jensen
  • Macron needs to be badly beaten

Most were peaceful, although there were reports of police scuffling with protesters in Paris and firing tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators in the western city of Nantes.

Trains, planes, schools and other public services across France were seriously disrupted Thursday as unions set up dozens of street protests across the country.

The railway strikes are expected to cause massive inconvenience to the commuters since a large number of trains would be cancelled.

French public sector unions organised strikes and rallies on 22 March to protest government plans to reform public services, including the benefits of civil servants.

In this capital, tension will increase in the afternoon, due to two scheduled marches: one will start from the Gare de l'Est and another from Bercy, to merge both in the Square of La Bastille.

Mrs May briefed other European Union leaders on the probe into the Salisbury attack over a summit dinner on Thursday (March 22).

Railway workers are also concerned by the plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and the early retirement entitlements.

The measures would also make it easier for foreign companies to close sites in France and give new flexibility to companies with fewer than 50 employees, which make up 95% of French business. Their protests are shaping up as perhaps the biggest challenge of Macron's presidency since he took office last May on a promise to deliver a raft of economic reforms, some of which already appear to have had a positive impact on growth.

"If we are not heard. there would be calls for strikes and in that case, very few trains would run", said Julien Cabanne, a union official who came to Paris to protest.

"We're never happy when things change, yet we want things to change - that's the paradox of France", he tweeted last week. Thursday's stoppages alone will halve regional rail services and standard inter-city links, and knock 60 per cent of high-speed TGV trains out of action, the company said.

Macron's government has insisted it will stand firm on its programme to cut state costs and is hoping public opinion will be exasperated by train disruption and not support the strikes.

How bad could the strikes get?

Though surveys suggest a majority see rolling rail strikes as unjustified, they could potentially be the biggest since 1995, when weeks of walkouts paralysed the national network.

Retirees have come out to demonstrate over tax changes that reduce their pensions and prison guards staged almost two weeks of protests in January over security risks and poor pay.

Hospital staff are among many public servants to have stopped work to protest budget restrictions and for more staff in care homes.


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