Striking French Workers Disrupt Flights, Schools
PARIS (Dispatches) - French public sector workers went on strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to cull jobs and toughen pay conditions, forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and disrupting school activities.
Civil servants, teachers and nurses marched through cities across France, from Toulouse in the south to Strasbourg in the east, before the day’s biggest rally in Paris.
It is the first time in a decade that all unions representing more than 5 million public workers have rallied behind a protest call.
Turnout is an important indicator of public appetite for protest against Macron’s social and economic reforms, which the former investment banker says are needed to unlock economic growth and put public finances on a more sustainable footing.
As in other recent demonstrations, the number of protesters appeared low. While unions said some 400,000 people turned out across the country, the interior ministry put the figure at 209,000.
The economy ministry said some just 14 percent of state civil servants had been on strike and just 9.5 percent in local administration.
Protests last month against labor law reform that were led by private sector unions failed to persuade Macron to change policy course, but the French labor movement has traditionally been more muscular in the public sector.
“We want to make our voices heard after months and months of attacks against the public sector and its workers,” said Mylene Jacquot, head of the civil servants’ federation at the moderate CFDT, France’s biggest trade union.
“In particular, we want to force the government to make good on its promise regarding our spending power.”
Strike notices were lodged in schools, hospitals, airports and government ministries over plans to axe 120,000 jobs, freeze pay and reduce sick leave compensation.
The civil aviation authority said 30 percent of flights at airports nationwide had been cancelled but there was no disruption on the rail network. The Ministry of Education said fewer than one in five teachers were on strike.