French public servants in street over reforms

Paris: More than 100,000 French public sector workers angered by Emmanuel Macron’s plans to freeze their pay and eliminate jobs went on strike on Tuesday, amplifying opposition to the president’s cost-cutting, pro-business agenda.
Nine unions representing 5.4 million public workers issued a joint strike call to show their “profound disagreement” with Macron’s bid to transform the gargantuan public service.
The protests were the fourth round of demonstrations in France since September aimed at forcing the 39-year-old president to row back on his reforms, with the government’s response being closely watched by European allies and investors.
Over 100,000 people took to the streets in Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg, Nice and other cities on Tuesday, according to the authorities, while the hard-left CGT union estimated turnout nationally at 400,000.
“Macron is deepening the social divide,” read a banner waved by a protester in Paris while others took aim at his recent comments calling opponents of his reforms “slackers” and urging protesting trade unionists to get a job.
But there appeared to be relatively limited disruption to the national railways or schools and only a minority of flights were cancelled.
There has been vocal criticism of Macron’s policies from his opponents, but the protest movement has so far not reached the scale seen as necessary to force the government into major U-turns, analysts say.
Government spokesman Christophe Castaner adopted a conciliatory tone. — AFP

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