Mass protests against Macron reform plans as strikes hit trains, air travel

Mass protests against Macron reform plans as strikes hit trains, air travel

While unions have struggled to rally crowds over the past months, this is the first protest against Macron bringing together public sector workers and railway staff, potentially spelling trouble for the government ahead of a rolling rail strike.

In the western city of Nantes, brief scuffles broke out between some protesters and riot police.

The strikes saw transport cancellations, some schools and creches closed, as well as limits on some services such as libraries and rubbish collection.

Striking rail workers and air traffic controllers forced those sectors to cancel hundreds of trains and plane trips on Thursday.

Rail workers will also join Thursday's action before launching strikes on two days out of every five from April 3 until June 28, unless the government drops its reform plans.

Police in helmets and body armour took up positions around the Super-U supermarket.The Paris prosecutor's office said counter-terrorism prosecutors were investigating the incident but did not comment on the possible Islamic State allegiance.

Thursday morning, Air France said passengers should have expected 60 percent of short-haul flights to and from Paris' Orly Airport and French provinces and 75 percent of medium-haul flights to and from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport to actually operate.

"Let me tell you that public sector workers are very mobilized", Laurent Berger, the head of France's largest union, the CFDT, told RTL radio.

"The monitoring. did not reveal any apparent signs that could lead (us) to foresee he would act", Molins said.

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Macron aims to eliminate 120,000 civil-service jobs, privatize the national railways and stop hiring new railway workers during his 5-year tenure.

Plans to use more contractors and increasingly offer pay based on merit, rather than on experience, are seen by unions as attacks on traditional job security.

Railway workers are anxious by government plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and generous early retirement.

French President Emmanuel Macron was more specific about the matter when he addressed the issue at a news conference in Paris upon his return from the European Union summit in Brussels on Friday.

"We are going to continue reforming France in depth. with the certitude that our country needs this transformation to make up for the ground lost over previous decades", Macron told reporters during a trip to India last week.

It was the first time public sector workers, ranging from air-traffic controllers to civil servants, had joined with rail workers and pensioners to protest over the economic reforms Macron has sought to introduce since he took office in May previous year. "It is a provisional assessment as it could unfortunately get worse". Recent surveys suggest that while a large chunk of voters support the strikes, a majority backs the reforms, Reuters reported.

He said he was also protesting against tax hikes on pensions.

Care workers have gone on strike twice in six weeks overstretched resources and unsanitary conditions in many state retirement homes.

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