France set for autumn strikes as unions step up protests

France set for autumn strikes as unions step up protests
A demonstration called by the CGT and FO labour unions to defend the "modèle social et républicain" (Republican social model) in June. Photo: AFP
Unions in France on Thursday called for a strike for October 9 in protest at the "ideological policies" of French President Emmanuel Macron's government, while rail strikes have also been scheduled and Air France staff look set to hold more industrial action.
The CGT and FO unions as well as two national student unions denounced “ideological policies targeting the destruction of our social model, favouring notably the explosion of inequality and the breaking of collective rights”.
Macron, a 40-year-old former investment banker who swept to power last year promising to end decades of high unemployment and to reform the European Union, is trying to loosen French labour laws and reform the social security system.
The unions said in a joint statement that his policies would have an impact “once again on the weakest, the most insecure and most deprived”.
Earlier this year rail workers staged rolling strikes against Macron's plan to overhaul France's heavily indebted state rail operator SNCF.
Planned reforms included denying job and pension guarantees to new hires, along with moves to turn the SNCF into a joint-stock company, which the union considered a first step toward privatisation.
Lawmakers approved the reforms in early June although two unions have pledged to strike again on September 18.
Opinion polls, however, showed most voters backed the proposed changes.
Air France unions have also warned they will step up strike action in autumn although no dates have yet been set.
Staff at the national carrier have been in a long running pay dispute with company bosses that has resulted in numerous strikes since February and cost the airline millions. 
Air France recently appointed its first non-French CEO, Canadian Benjamin Smith — currently Air Canada's number two — which was met with outrage by the unions including the CGT. 
It was “inconceivable that the Air France company, French since 1933, falls into the hands of a foreign executive whose candidacy is being promoted by a competitor,” said a statement from nine out of 10 Air France unions on August 17th.

'Gauls, resistant to change': Macron in hot water for 'mocking' the French Photo: AFP

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