Trains at a standstill, electricity and gas workers in the streets, medical operations suspended – France is living up to its reputation as a bastion of public sector resistance to economic liberalisation.
Rail workers are protesting against plans to cut more than 3,000 jobs under the 2005 budget. Commuters were left with one in four intercity trains and a drastically reduced service in and around the capital, Paris. Postal workers kicked off nationwide stoppages on Tuesday in protest at what they see as creeping privatisation. Gas and electricity employees have since made their grievances heard, while teachers and other civil servants are to stage walkouts on Thursday. Surgeons stopped working except in emergencies to pile on the pressure for pay rises and a reorganisation of operating theatres. Hospital doctors have been asked to strike on Thursday. The walkouts are seen as a major test for France’s right-wing government which is trying to relax the 35-hour working week. Unions say the reforms threaten the welfare state.