Strikes to disrupt French trains, flights, schools Thursday

Strikes to disrupt French trains, flights, schools Thursday

Kerry Wise
March 26, 2018

Police scuffled with protesters in Paris and fired teargas and water cannon in the western city of Nantes as strikes broke out across France on Thursday in a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.

Seven trade unions have called on public sector workers to strike today, including school and hospital staff, civil servants and air traffic controllers.

Labour unions said last week they would launch rolling strikes in early April, but France's transport minister said many were planning to join a wider day of public service protests on Thursday, reducing rail services by 50 per cent.

Turnout was much stronger amid railway staff, who grounded sixty percent of fast trains and 75 percent of inter-city trains, while 30 percent of flights to and from Paris airports were cancelled. Just one in four regular mainline Intercité trains across the country operated and only half of the regional TER trains.

Some 150 protest marches are scheduled, including two rallies starting at around 1300 GMT in Paris. It has also warned of cancellations on Friday due to separate strike action by its own staff.

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

"These strikes are always hard and we know that is not good for transport users and the public in general", Yves Veyrier a spokesman for the union Force Ouvriere told The Local. More than 100 marches were planned across the country on Thursday.

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.

Federation Internationale de Football Association gives VAR the green light for 2018 World Cup
Football's world governing body took possession of the books alongside their ruling Council's meeting in Colombia's capital Bogota.

Macron has stayed sanguine through criticism over his reforms, insisting he was elected on a mandate to shake France up.

François Rauch, 65, a former SNCF rail operator, told Reuters: "We're here against the government, which is only helping the rich".

"What we need to avoid is that all the grievances fuse together, as was the case in 1995", a government official said, referring to France's biggest strike in decades, which forced the government at the time to withdraw reforms after striking public and private sector workers received huge popular support.

"We agreed - Germany and France at least - that such reactions are still necessary in addition to recalling the ambassador".

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

He was also suspected, without any certainty, of having travelled to Syria, Le Parisien said, adding that the family flat, where he would have been living with his parents and three or four sisters, was raided by police on Friday afternoon.

Care workers have gone on strike twice in six weeks over stretched resources and unsanitary conditions in many state retirement homes.