Public sector walkout brings France to a halt
People, with civil servants leading the group, march during a demonstration in Marseille, southern France, Thursday. | Claude Paris / AP

French public-sector workers walked out yesterday and joined marches and rallies against President Emmanuel Macron’s austerity policies and deregulation drive.

The workers joined 150 planned demonstrations across France.

Striking rail workers brought 60 percent of express trains and 75 percent of intercity trains to a halt.

Walkouts by teachers forced many schools to close, with estimates of at least one in eight leaving classrooms to join the protests.

Air transport workers forced a third of flights to and from Paris airports to be cancelled.

And striking power workers caused electricity output to fall by 3 gigawatts—equivalent to three of France’s nuclear reactors.

Their actions have been galvanized by Macron’s plans to fire 120,000 government workers by 2022 and introduce performance-related pay.

SNCF workers demonstrate at the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris, France, March 22, 2018, as thousands of French train drivers, teachers, and air traffic controllers strike. | Alain Apaydin / Sipa via AP Images)

Civil servants organized in the left-wing CGT trade union confederation said that the government had clearly taken the path of confrontation with its most recent cuts announcement and that public-sector workers must mobilize to halt the assault.

Macron’s policies build on those of his government’s Socialist Party predecessor, in which he was a minister, particularly the El-Khomri and Macron laws that attacked workers’ rights.

His ministers have recently geared up for a fight with France’s rail workers, planning to hack away at their terms and conditions while preparing the publicly owned SNCF railway for privatization.

That privatization may well take the form used in Britain, with the European Union’s Fourth Railway Package requiring member states to allow private competition in the running of passenger services.

The four rail unions have vowed to resist the attacks and smears against them, with France’s media blaming workers for the actions of management and successive government reorganizations.

One of today’s biggest rallies took place at the Gare de l’Est station in Paris in solidarity with them.

French Communist Party general secretary Pierre Laurent warned that, if the government’s rail plan is forced through, it would result in a service “that has been considerably degraded with increasing privatisation and a large number of closed lines.”

Morning Star.


Morning Star
Morning Star

The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.