Public sector workers in France have begun 24 hours of industrial action aimed at causing as much chaos and disruption as possible.
The comprehensive programme of strikes is being seen as the first concerted trade union challenge to Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. He is coming under fire for his privatisation plans for several public companies, coupled with union discontent over high rates of unemployment and low pay. Villepin promised to restore public confidence following the government’s defeat in the EU constitution referendum. But trade unions have declared Villepin’s four month honeymoon period over. Rail traffic within France is expected to be cut by half and urban transport in Paris and 74 other cities will be hit. To off-set the disruption some commuters say they will come in late but try to make up time in the lunch hour. Others plan to organise taxis with neighbours and try to get to work that way. But it is not just public transport which will bare the brunt of the action.Schools are expected to remain shut in the absence of teachers and canteen workers. One woman said her husband would just take the day off. Such strikes do not always attract the support the organisers would wish for, but it is certain Tuesday will be a difficult day in France.