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France braces for mass rail strikes

04 April, 2018, 01:03 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • French leader promises to support SDF in Syria

This week, Air France staff, dustmen, utility workers, academics, rail staff and civil servants step up their industrial action in protest over plans to curb the vast privileges and perks enjoyed in so many areas of the French economy.

"Much of the discussion centered on the best way to accompany the huge changes made possible by artificial intelligence and their ethical implications, and to ensure they are beneficial to humanity", said Marie-Paule Cani, who will hold Google's new AI chair, of the evening's exchanges. "But today is my first day in a new job so I have to admit I could have done without the strike".

It will be a major test of the French trade unions' clout.

The French presidency did not confirm that Macron had pledged more troops, but the presidential source said France could bolster its military intervention in Syria "within the existing framework" of the USA -led coalition.

The Afrin operation has already drawn global criticism, notably from Macron. "That depends on the government - we are ready to discuss it", he said.

While not linked to Macron's reforms, the Air France walkouts - also planned for April 7, 10, 11 - add to a febrile mood among France's unions.

"The railway workers are not doing this for the fun of it", said Philippe Martinez, head of the hardline CGT union, the biggest among railway workers.

The French national railway company announced today that there will be a strike of its employees today and tomorrow (April 3 and 4), which will make it hard for passengers to travel to Europe and across the country, Darik reported.




"This strike is going to hit customers hard. It's the government that has brought things to where they are now". His popularity rating is near the lowest seen since he took office in May 2017.

No trains were set to run between France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

Three out of four Eurostar trains to London and Brussels were running on Tuesday and the Thalys train towards Belgium and the Netherlands will operate nearly as normal, but there will be none at all towards Spain, Italy and Switzerland.

A rolling strike against railway reforms that is expected to cause traffic chaos is not justified, according to a small majority of French people in a poll published on Sunday.

"No one can understand why the rail unions are unleashing a long and punishing strike when the government is engaging in a dialogue", said Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne, stressing the process is open to consultation.

What remains unclear is whether Macron might offer further concessions to get the unions to back down before the strikes bite.

Also on Tuesday, the sanitation workers ' strike. On March 22, tens of thousands of teachers, nurses and other workers joined rail staff on strike - a sign of widespread opposition to Macron's plans for state sector liberalisation.

Air France, meanwhile, is set to operate 75% of flights on Tuesday as staff seeking a 6% pay rise stage their fourth strike in a month.

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