Thursday, February 22, 2018 | ePaper
Labour protests hit France in key challenge for Macron
France braced for a day of strikes and protests Tuesday against Emmanuel Macron's flagship labour reforms, a key test as he stakes his presidency on overhauling the sluggish economy.
More than 180 street protests are planned nationwide against the reforms, which are intended to tackle stubbornly high unemployment by loosening the rules that govern how businesses hire and fire people.
Some 4,000 strikes have been called under the action led by France's biggest trade union.
, the CGT, with rail workers, students and civil servants urged to protest in cities from Paris to Marseille and Toulouse.
But the turnout will serve as a yardstick for unions' ability to mobilise, as deep splits have emerged in the labour movement between those determined to fight the reforms and those prepared to compromise.
The business-friendly Macron sparked a backlash last week by describing opponents of the shake-up as "slackers" and cynics, in comments blasted as "scandalous" by CGT chief Philippe Martinez.
Bruno Cautres of the Cevipof political research institute said Macron had "thrown oil on the fire" with his choice of words.
"With the 'slackers' comment, there are all the ingredients for this to heat up," he said.
In Paris, the transport disruption is set to be limited to two commuter train lines. Air traffic controllers have also been urged to strike, and Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair said Monday that it had cancelled 110 flights scheduled for Tuesday.
"If the French government is serious about changing France, they should start by tackling these air traffic control unions," the airline's chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said in a statement.
Funfair operators-angry over pre-Macron reforms that open the industry to more competition-will also join in, planning to block traffic in several cities and donning clown costumes for the Paris protest.