As Emmanuel Macron’s administration plans to scrap 120,000 public service jobs and slash pensions, unions brace for a wave of disruptive strikes in transport, garbage collection, and energy production.
The General Confederation of Labour, the French Democratic Confederation of Labour and other unions are calling for alternate strike days — three on, two off — until June 28. They are all united by calls for reduced pensions by 2019 and mass layoffs by 2022.
The most powerful unions in France are taking action against President Emmanuel Macron’s unwinding of labour market protections. Last year, Macron’s administration managed to divide the unions and manage the disruptive effects of the strikes. This time it’s different.
The government wants to move to make the rail company (SNCF) “internationally competitive,” which for a company with €45bn could mean an end to jobs for life, layoffs, smaller pay and a higher age of retirement. Employees in the rail sector can retire at 52, their family can travel for free, and they have extra vacation days than the rest of the public sector.
Higher age of retirement is also planned for the waste disposal sector.
Meanwhile, workers in the energy production sector are against privatization. Air France employees are seeking a 6% pay rise for the first time since 2011.
The most disruptive strike will be that of the railway, beginning on Monday; it is expected to cut off train connections by up to 20%.
Prime minister Edouard Philippe points to public opinion surveys that suggest public opinion favours the reduction of pay and privileges for rail workers. In reality, public opinion is polarized, with the latest Ifop poll suggesting that 53% of public opinion want to see SNCF rights curtailed, while 46% do not.
It is often pointed out that railway strikes affect commuting and a strike longer than two weeks could unsettle the government. At the same time, President Macron campaigned on a labour market reform platform has little room for retreat.