More Strikes in France Against Macron Labor Reforms

More Strikes in France Against  Macron Labor Reforms
More Strikes in France Against  Macron Labor Reforms

Air France staff kicked off another two-day strike on Monday joining rail workers for a second month of stoppages in a bitter feud pitting workers and students against the government over President Emmanuel Macron’s labor reforms.

In the latest sign of the deepening industrial row to grip France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe met Monday with unions in an effort to defuse tensions with state-run railway SNCF that has seen rail services disrupted for much of last month, France24 reported.

While unions agreed to stick to their program of striking for two days out of every five through the end of June, there was a split between the hardline and moderate unions with the latter saying they were open to further negotiations.

The prime minister confirmed his government was open to absorbing “a substantial part” of the state-owned SNCF railway company and would discuss the issue further with unions.

  Groundswell of Opposition

Monday’s meeting follows a decision by Air France CEO Jean Marc Janaillac to resign after airline staff on Friday rejected a pay deal designed to end weeks of strikes. Aggrieved staff walked off the job, embarking on a two-day strike to continue their demands for higher wages.

Since rail and airline stoppages began in early April, the country has been beset by employee unrest and disruptions to transport services. Rail workers are disputing the deregulation of the railway network and an end to job-for-life contracts in overlapping industrial action with Air France.

The strikes have triggered a groundswell of opposition to a raft of reforms, with workers’ unions, civil servants, transport staff and students uniting in the streets in their thousands but thus far having failed to force Macron’s hand.

  Highs and Lows

The French president, who has said he will pursue his reforms “to the end”, appears to have gained some momentum, with public opinion still behind him since his first clash with the hard-left aligned CGT union last October. The latest Ifop survey published Sunday showed 56% believe the strikes are “not justified”, a result in line with other surveys since April that favor Macron.

CGT chief Philippe Martinez said last week that as with every strike movement, “there are highs and lows”, though he insisted that the movement remained strong.

But participation rates at rallies have not reached anywhere near the mass numbers seen in previous eras, with Martinez struggling to drum up support for a grand uprising reminiscent of the 1968 student-led anti-government protests.

SNCF management said the share of staff striking had dropped to 17% this week down from more than 30% when rail strikes began on April 3.

The strength of the protest movement may have waned but between them, union bosses for Air France, the SNCF and university students are maintaining pressure on the government to roll back planned reforms.

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