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Industrial action sweeps across France

16 April 2018

Workers demonstrating in Le Mans last year against proposals for new labour laws. Photo kipgodi/shutterstock.com

While French President Emmanuel Macron cosies up to Donald Trump, his country is in uproar over his government’s anti-working class policies. 

In early April, railway workers went on strike across France, halting 80 per cent of all high-speed trains. Train staff launched three months of nationwide rolling strikes in protest of the planned overhaul, with unions calling walkouts for two days out of every five until the end of June.

Pilots and ground staff for Air France also went on strike, calling for a 6 per cent pay rise. The walkout, the sixth since February, led the airline to cancel a quarter of its scheduled flights.

Also taking action were students opposed to a planned new selection system in higher education. Hospital workers, bus drivers and garbage collectors and other public workers have also held demonstrations.

More planned

Trade unions in France are planning more strikes in the next few weeks to protest Macron’s EU-driven “austerity” policy. He wants to end so-called job-for-life guarantees and to put a stop to early retirement for rail workers. Staff at Frances national rail provider, SNCF, say they fear that Macron wants to privatise the company, which still holds a monopoly on train travel in France.

Macron is acting to impose the EU policy to open up rail markets. The EU wants national governments to foster competition between different national providers, creating a pan-European rail market in the years ahead. Indeed, EU law will soon compel this.

• Public sector workers across Germany are demanding a pay rise of six per cent. 2.3 million public sector workers have seen their wages stagnate despite the country’s economic growth. On 10 April, German airport workers went on strike, leading to the cancellation of more than 800 flights by the national air carrier, Lufthansa. More than 60,000 workers, including nursery workers and other public sector workers outside the commercial air traffic sector, also took part in the strike.