Emmanuel Macron’s Resolve Remains Unfazed Despite Mass Strike of the Public Sector in France
For the first time ever in a decade, the nine major unions of the public sector in France came together and organized mass protests against the proposed plans by President Macron. The president is planning to freeze pay as well as release 120,000 workers in the coming five years. The mass protests caused the cancellation of flights in most French airports and disrupted schools. However, Macron's reforms received a boost as only a handful of public workers poured out in the streets. Reports indicate that about 209,000 out of the 5.4 million state workers in France took part in the protests. The unions however disputed these reports saying that the number was double. The education ministry reported that around a fifth of all teachers in the country took part in the strike and the public transport system was running normally.
During the protests, there were a number of sporadic clashes between protesters and the police in Paris. A total of eight protesters were arrested. The recent strike marks the fourth round of protests taking place in France from September seeking to force the President to reverse his reforms. The unions referred to President Macron's reforms as a huge disappointment. Pierre-Marie Ganozzi from FSU, the largest union in the state sector of southern Bouche-du-Rhone departement stated that Macron had transformed from Jupiter to Thatcher abruptly.
Reactions and Outbursts
President Macron is planning to water down the wealth tax, a move that has seen parties on the Left label him as the "president of the rich". The unions and some of his opponents have accused him of treating the workers with contempt after a recording emerged of him claiming that the striking workers were wreaking havoc in the country. The President blasted the protesters referring to them as "slackers". The protesters who had gathered next to Place de la Republique, Paris carried placards that seemed to taunt the President. The placards had different messages with some stating that the slackers had united and another read that it was the president, finance minister and the prime minister who were wreaking havoc.
Magnitude of the Strike
According to analysts, the current movement as it is has not reached the scale that would necessitate the government to make a U-turn. Edouard Phillipe, the prime minister insisted that the government would not relent on its reforms and assured workers in the public sector that their efforts were fully appreciated. The government plans to cut its budget by €16 billion or £14.3billion through freezing payments and cutting public sector jobs.
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