Monday 23 April 2018

French strikes over Macron reforms turn ugly

Students face riot police during a demonstration yesterday in Paris as part of a nationwide day of protest against the French president’s reform drive. Photo: Getty Images
Students face riot police during a demonstration yesterday in Paris as part of a nationwide day of protest against the French president’s reform drive. Photo: Getty Images

Ingrid Melander

Police scuffled with protesters in Paris and fired tear gas and water cannons in the western city of Nantes as strikes broke out across France yesterday in a challenge to President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.

Train conductors, teachers and air traffic controllers walked out to join more than 150 mostly peaceful marches in cities and towns - the first time public sector workers have joined rail staff in protests since Mr Macron came to office in May.

Some 60pc of fast trains, 75pc of inter-city trains and 30pc of flights to and from Paris airports were cancelled due to the strike.

About 13pc of teachers walked off the job, the education ministry said, closing many primary schools. Electricity generation dropped by more than three gigawatts, the equivalent of three nuclear reactors, as those workers joined the strike, stoking government fears the work stoppages could spread.

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.

Railway workers are worried by government plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and generous early retirement.

"Discontent and worry are spreading very quickly," said Jean-Marc Canon of UGFF-CGT, one of the largest unions.

But the government says it will stand by its plans with polls showing the majority of voters back the reforms.

Irish Independent

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