Public sector workers join rail staff in protests across France against reforms

26 March, 2018, 02:15 | Author: Sheri Evans
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Macron's approval rating decline comes amid nationwide protests where tens of thousands of nurses, teachers, airline controllers, train conductors and a host of other public sector workers went on strike yesterday in solidarity against Macron's reforms.

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

It is the first day of a three-month wave of strikes announced by unions that will see their members walk off the job for two out of every five days between April and June in a new and experimental form of protest.

State railway company SNCF said that 60 per cent of high-speed TGV trains and 50 per cent of regional services were cancelled.

The Paris Metro is expected to run normally but suburban trains will be affected.

On the other hand, a total of 13 secondary schools of this capital dawned with blockades by groups of students joining the strike, while universities also report interruptions and closure of some centers.

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There was similar disruption at airports, particularly in Paris where some 30 percent of flights were cancelled at Orly, CDG and Beauvais airports. Unions accuse him of seeking to dismantle the state sector.

Railway workers are anxious by government plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees and automatic annual pay rises.

French President Emmanuel Macron called the killing of three people in southern France on Friday and act of "Islamist terrorism", but said security services were still checking whether the Islamic State group was really behind the attack as it claims.

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

While Thursday's strikes are likely to inconvenience many travelers, Macron was elected on a mandate of reforming the country's famously rigid labor laws.

"We are going to continue reforming France in depth. with the certitude that our country needs this transformation to make up for the ground lost over previous decades", Macron told reporters during a trip to India last week.

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His government says the behemoth rail operator, in particular, is crying out for reform, saddled with 46.6 billion euros ($57.3 billion) of debt.

SNCF workers reject a government plan aimed at adapting the company ahead of opening the service to competition. "It is a provisional assessment as it could unfortunately get worse".

The greater Paris region of Île-de-France was particularly badly hit by the industrial action. Recent surveys suggest that while a large chunk of voters support the strikes, a majority backs the reforms, Reuters reported.

An estimated 200,000 people took to the streets to express their objections to several of the moves initiated by Macron.

Later, a police union official said the attacker had also killed one person with a bullet in the head in the nearby historic town of Carcassonne before the hostage-taking.

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