Strikes, Protests Continue to Shake France

Public railways SNCF workers demonstrate against planned reforms of the French government on April 13 in Paris.
Public railways SNCF workers demonstrate against planned reforms of the French government on April 13 in Paris.

A new strike by Air France employees on Tuesday adds chaos in France, which is already reeling from strikes by rail workers and university students over proposed public sector reforms by President Emmanuel Macron.

To Macron’s dismay, the popular movements show no signs of slowing down, France 24 reported.

The Air France tussle over salaries is separate from the larger and politically more significant stand-off between Macron’s centrist, business-friendly government and the public sector trade unions fighting its reform plans.

Rail unions are particularly up in arms over proposed reforms that they say would reduce job security. Students have been blocking several public universities over Macron’s plan to introduce more selective applications.

There is a general atmosphere of social discontent against Macron’s reforms, including protests and strikes by civil servants, energy workers and garbage collectors.

Recently, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire admitted that, while he could not produce numbers, it was clear that the strikes were impacting growth.

  Transport Sector

About 30% of Air France flights scheduled on Tuesday were expected to be canceled due to a strike over pay. Crews and ground staff, whose wages have been frozen since 2011, are seeking a 6% pay rise. This will mark their eighth day of walkouts since February.

Some 45% of long-haul flights were to be canceled along with 35% of medium-haul flights to and from Paris. According to Air France, the strikes could cost the company upwards of €220 million.

The fourth edition of an ongoing strike by workers at the French national rail carrier the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français was set to begin Tuesday evening as the National Assembly prepared to vote on a bill addressing rail sector reforms.


Four different universities in France are still closed due to protests that started in February in response to a law proposing to restrict university access. Over ten other sites have been partially blocked by students.

The protests have meant that, in some locations, students are unable to sit their exams.

In an attempt to slash high failure rates among first-year undergraduates, a new law that passed in February seeks in part to personalize the admissions process, controversially chipping away at the principle of automatic entry for French high school graduates.

Until now, places in the most popular courses of study have been attributed by drawing lots, without regard for a candidate’s grades or qualifications. For critics, any nudge toward “selection” is sacrilege.

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