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Union seeks to expand anti-Macron protest but lack of support



PARIS (Reuters) – A leftist unions offer to reverse a protest on Thursday about transforming state railways into a larger demonstration of resistance to President Emmanuel Macron seems to be flattening, with the workers' movement splitting and fewer people participating.

A protester holding a banner with a picture of French President Emmanuel Macron and the slogan "Clear, Lazy, Cynical, Radical" during a demonstration against the reform plans of the French government in Paris during a National Day of Protest, France 1
9 April 2018 REUTERS / Philippe Wojazer

Thousands participated in street marches in Paris and other cities, but the other large union stayed away and criticized the efforts of the CGT despite their joint struggle over the biggest railroad reform since nationalization in 1937 CGT sought a "convergence of struggles" in which various industrial disputes and sources of dissatisfaction merge into a mass revolution against the government, as happened in May 1968 and most recently at the end of 1995.

"This is just the beginning," said Yann Bernard, a representative of the CGT railroads division, promising more action against Macron's comprehensive economic reform effort.

A CGT strike on the Paris subway, however, seemed to have little impact on the RATP bus group: RATP management reported normal operations over most of the network.

Voter turnout had lagged far behind the rallies in the not too distant past. The CGT union said 300,000 people were demonstrating across the country while the ministry of the interior put the number at 119,500. The police counted 11,500 protesters in Paris.

A CGT unionist protests during a demonstration against the reform plans of the French government in Nantes as part of a national day of protest, France, April 19, 2018. REUTERS / Stephane Mahe

For comparison: Hundreds of thousands of people are on the Road has gone down to question an increase in the retirement age, with which former President Nicolas Sarkozy has gone anyway. Even the police stated at the height of this protest 1.2 million. Nonetheless, a sea of ​​flags and slogans fluttering across the crowd showed that some people from outside the state railroads, including people from the state hospital sectors, entered the fight.

A rolling strike by railroad workers stopped train traffic on the eighth day of this month. Only one-third of high-speed TGV trains ran, and SNCF management said more than 20 percent of employees had quit their jobs.

Slideshow (14 pictures)

MAY DAY

Two things counteract a reiteration of the upheaval that the CGT successfully launched in late 1995 with the help of broad public support and other unions, then government, rail and social reforms to draw.

While the CGT rejects the liberalization of the railways, a target of the recent reform, the union CFDT demands that the government top up SNCF's debts amounting to 46 billion euros and demand a new agreement on working conditions in opening up the sector Competition.

CFDT union leader Laurent Berger told a parliamentary news channel that his union has nothing to do with the marches on Thursday. Neither, he said, nor would he stand side by side with the CGT on May 1, a day on which labor rights are celebrated in France and many other countries.

He said that he did not share the CGT's goal of uniting very different groups with very different complaints, from railway workers to electricity workers and hospital staff, and even some students involved in very different protests about university entry criteria.

Forty-year-old Macron held firm and on Wednesday urged the railway unions to "stop holding the country hostage."

Public support for the SNCF protest is weaker than any other than one of several dozen major protests in France over the past 20 years, according to an Ifop poll released last Sunday. It turned out that 42 percent were sympathizers to the strikers.

This compares with much larger support rates of about two-thirds, when railroad workers' strikes in late 1995 flared up to broader public-sector protests, prompting President Jacques Chirac to dissolve his government.

While opinion polls indicate that 60 percent of French people want Macron to continue its railroad revolution, he has tested public sentiment after cutting wealth tax and housing costs and raising taxes on retirees. These changes, according to the polls, have cemented the voters' belief that Macron is bad for both purchasing power and economic equality.

Additional coverage by Caroline Pailliez and Simon Carraud; Arrangement by Ingrid Melander and Alison Williams


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