France Strikes Against Macron’s Labor Plans
President Emmanuel Macron’s introduction of new labor policies directed at cutting the public sector in favor of private employers was met with intense opposition from the French public this week. Over 180 nationwide street demonstrations were joined by more than 200,000 public employees and their supporters.
The 50th anniversary of the 1968 student uprising, the largest public protest in French history, was celebrated with a revival of the former spirit this Thursday. The reason for this was Macron’s new labor policy that would cut 120,000 public-sector jobs, hire more contract workers, and introduce merit-based pay.
Most affected by the strike was the public transport system. Striking rail workers were joined by air traffic controllers demanding pay raises, which led Air France to announce that about 30 percent of long-haul and short-haul flights would be affected as a result. The delays are expected to continue as rail workers plan a rolling protest in form of a two-day strike every three days.
Macron’s planned changes still require parliamentary approval, though they should face few obstacles as the president has the support of more than 60 percent of the National Assembly. However, 74 percent of French people consider the program unfair.
While Macron is often viewed as a European defender of progressive democratic values abroad, his purposeful strengthening of governmental power has led to a different domestic reception. “He’s a bad example for democracy, but a good example for reform”, said Patrick Vignal, a parliament member and supporter of Macron.
However, the strikes don’t just represent pragmatic reasoning but a deeper ideological divide. As former SNCF rail operator Francois Rauch told Reuters: “We’re here against the government, which is only helping the rich.”