Macron to face nationwide public sector protests in March
French railways workers were urged Friday to join civil servants in a nationwide day of protest next month against President Emmanuel Macron's reform agenda in what will be a major test of strength.
Published: 16 February 2018 11:50 CET
The leader of the country's biggest public-sector trade union, the CGT, called the rail protests on March 22 over plans by the government to remove some of the privileges enjoyed by workers on the train network.
The trigger was a major report recommending an overhaul of the debt-laden and loss-making SNCF rail system which was submitted to Macron's centrist government on Thursday.
“Rail workers will organise a national protest day on March 22 and of course rail workers will defend public services, their jobs and their status,” the head of the CGT Philippe Martinez told France Inter radio.
Civil servants are also set to demonstrate the same day over a proposed shake up that will see some workers offered redundancy packages and higher use of short-term contracts.
Macron wants to cut 120,000 public sector jobs over the course of his five-year term.
The 40-year-old leader faced a first series of demonstrations led by the CGT in September and October last year over his reforms to the labour code, which were unsuccessful in preventing the changes becoming law.
The victory for the government led to questions about whether the once fearsome French trade unions are still able to mobilise large crowds and cripple public services.
The demonstrations on March 22 coincide with the 50th anniversary of a major student protest at a university near Paris in 1968, a precursor to the nationwide strikes that roiled the country in May of the same year.
Large demonstrations and strikes are a common feature of French democracy and have repeatedly forced governments into policy U-turns in the past, but Macron has vowed to press ahead.
The most sensitive part of the rail report submitted on Thursday suggests that new railway workers should not be given the same historic employment privileges as their colleagues, such as early retirement and life-long job security.
“It's not illogical to say that if in the future you take on new employees they should have a pension that is the same as for other French people,” the head of Macron's Republic on the Move party, Christophe Castaner, said Friday.
Castaner said that on average France's 140,000 rail workers retire aged 57.5 years, compared with 62 in the private sector. Train drivers retire in their early 50s.
The rail reform report, prepared by the former head of Air France Jean-Cyril Spinetta, proposed 43 changes including the shutting of smaller loss-making rail links in rural areas.
He said that the state of the railways was “worrying” and highlighted annual losses of 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion).
The rail network's ever rising debt will reach 50 billion euros in 2018, the report said.
His office added that the president’s speech “will not touch on other matters” – Macron has only until Friday to confirm whether or not he is running for re-election.
It is widely considered to be extremely unlikely that he would not stand in the April elections, but all candidates have until Friday, March 4th, to make their declaration.
Macron’s team had previously announced a rally in Marseille on Saturday, March 5th, which was expected to be the first official campaign event, but on Tuesday this was cancelled because of the ongoing international crisis.
Macron was at the forefront of international efforts to find a diplomatic resolution to the crisis, and since Russia invaded Ukraine he has remained in close contact with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, and has also spoken – at the request of Zelensky – to Russian premier Vladimir Putin.
The Local will be following Macron’s speech live from 8pm HERE.
Url copied to clipboard!
Please whitelist us to continue reading.
So this website can function correctly please whitelist The Local with your adblocker, antivirus software or browser add on.