Half a million strikers have taken to the streets in 150 demonstrations around France as the country’s five main union confederations called for mass protests.
The demonstrators from both the public and private sectors complain they arelosing job security and purchasing power. They claim staff are being sacrificed on the altar of profit. It is dramatic language that reveals profound fears workers’ rights are being chipped away by globalisation. “We’re fed up with this privatisation in which we give everything to the shareholders and less and less to the employees – that’s why we’re here,” said one woman. Public transport was severly disrupted, driving commuters into their cars. Staff at the French post office, telephone operator and power firm were all involved in the walkouts. In Lyon there was virtually no metro service and only a handful of regional trains. The few buses running were packed. “We’re getting there, we’ve waited about 36 minutes and it’s quite a pain in the neck, we’re going to be late,” said one traveller. Another commuter added: “They shouldn’t penalise the transport users because they can’t get to their jobs, and after all they’re customers, that’s all.” One of the only ways to get around town was on two wheels. Lyon’s new free bike service has had one of its busiest days to date. But despite the disruption a recent survey shows three out of four French people support the strikers and their aims.