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French public sector sets collision course with Macron with strikes

Rail workers staged walkout at Paris' train stations
Rail workers staged walkout at Paris' train stations
By Tokunbo Salako with Reuters
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Protesters are challenging the French president's economic reform plans


In France, thousands of public sector workers have been striking for the first time over Emmanuel Macron's economic reform plans for the first time.

Action by train drivers has caused chaos across rail services with most inter-city and express trains cancelled.

Sixty percent of fast trains, 75 percent of inter-city trains and 30 percent of flights to and from Paris airports were grounded because of the stoppage.

A fed-up rail passenger told Euronews she was full of frustration: It's annoying because we fear automatically when we hear it on the news, we say to ourselves, "Will we be able to leave?"

One train driver explained why he decided enough is enough: "The railways as a whole, the lines, how the trains are organised, the lack of equipment, the lack of personnel, the things that we experience on a daily basis, that users also experience - all that makes the system no longer work."

Railway workers are worried by government plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and generous early retirement. Other civil servants are angry with plans to reduce the public sector headcount by 120,000 by 2022 and about the introduction of merit-based pay.

France's education ministry said about 13 percent of teachers walked off the job, forcing the closure of many primary schools.

Opinion polls show a paradox: a majority of voters back the strike but an even bigger majority back the reforms.

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