Public sector workers in France strike over labour law reforms

23 Mar 18

A number of public sector workers went on strike across France yesterday over the government’s plans to reform labour laws.  

Teachers, train conductors and airline controllers have walked off the job, disrupting transport and public services, marking the first protest against Emmanuel Macron.

The strike comes as the government overhauled labour laws last year and is crafting a series of other reforms, including unemployment insurance. The French government has said it will stand by its plans, while keeping a close eye on the protests.

Although a majority of voters back the strike, an even bigger majority back the reforms, including cuts to the number of public sector workers and the introduction of merit-based pay, according to opinion polls.

The public sector’s worries include the government’s plans to cut public sector workers by 120,000 by 2022, including with voluntary redundancies.

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

A government official said the government wanted to avoid the protests escalating to similar levels as in 1995, when the biggest strike in decades hit France and forced the government to withdraw reforms after public and private sector workers received huge popular support.

The official said: “The situation is very different from 1995. At the time there was a big discrepancy with what the government had promised during the elections and what they eventually did.”

Unions, which have struggled to rally crowds over the past months, said one in four primary schools were on strike, as well as gas and electricity sector workers.

The strike is expected to lead to the cancellation of 60% of fast trains, 75% of inter-city trains and about 30% of Paris airports’ flights throughout the day, Reuters reported.

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