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'Gilet jaunes' movement spreads to France's truckers, farmers and students

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'Gilet jaunes' movement spreads to France's truckers, farmers and students

'Gilet jaunes' movement spreads to France's truckers, farmers and students
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REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
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France's social climate hung in the balance as three weeks of demonstrations by the "gilets jaunes" (yellow vests) movement rumbled on.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on Tuesday announced some concessions that included a six-month suspension of controversial increases to fuel taxes.

While this was the first major u-turn for Emmanuelle Macron's administration, many said they did not go far enough.

"Too little, too late," deemed Le Figaro newspaper this morning. The executive is "in reverse", criticised the Libération. "Crumbs are not enough," said daily L'Humanité.

"The French don't want crumbs, they want a baguette," yellow vest spokesman Benjamin Cauchy told French news channel BFM.

Eric Drouet, one of the movement's most famous instigators, called for a "return to Paris" on Saturday, "near the places of power, the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, Concorde".

The government also had the added pressure that the gilets jaunes movement was gradually spreading to other sectors.

Lorry drivers enter the fray

There have been warning signs that truckers from the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) and Force Ouvrière (FO), both major unions in France, were set to back the "yellow" cause, even though in some cases unions have not aligned their action with the movement.

A call for strike action was made to defend drivers' buying power and blockades could start on Sunday evening from 22h CET and last for an indefinite period. France's transport ministry has made its stance clear saying this movement has "no reason to exist".

The transport branch of the FO expressed its support for the "yellow vests" from November 20. If it goes through with a strike, the union will ask nearly 700,000 employees to down tools, and not just truck drivers but also ambulance drivers, cash transporters and removal workers.

School reform protests

Several dozen high schools are in turmoil across France, including around 20 in Marseille, at least 10 in Toulouse, at least seven in the Paris region, three in Normandy and three in Montpellier.

The young demonstrators were denouncing various reforms concerning high schools and continued to march on Wednesday, notably in Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Nantes.

Some started fires and clashed with the police on Tuesday. Student unions are calling for a stronger mobilisation on Thursday and Friday.

Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner on Tuesday asked "reasonable yellow vests" not to gather in Paris on Saturday amid new mobilisation calls.

"I invite reasonable yellow vests, those who do not support violent action, to dissociate themselves from extremes and not to gather in Paris next Saturday," he said before the Senate Laws Committee.