World News

French strikes over Macron's reforms cripple public services

Posted May 22, 2018 6:24 a.m. EDT

— France's public services ground to a halt Tuesday as civil servants across the country went on strike against President Emmanuel Macron's proposed economic reforms.

Tuesday's action is the third nationwide strike in France since Macron began his five-year term in May last year, promising to slash public spending and inject new life into the economy.

All nine major public sector unions are taking part in the action, in a rare show of unity not seen in the country for some 10 years. Around 130 separate strikes are scheduled to take place, Axel Persson from the CGT union's rail workers branch told CNN.

"It's important to strike because Macron is implementing an agenda that aims at destroying all the benefits conquered throughout the past half century: pensions, protections against unfair dismissal, terms and conditions in both private and public sector," Persson said.

"If he gets his way, we will be back to square one in terms of workers' rights in France."

The strike began as an action for the country's rail workers, but soon broadened to include much of the civil service, including teachers and hospital staff. Air traffic controllers have also joined, grounding dozens of flights.

Among the most contentious of the proposed reforms are 120,000 administrative job cuts and moving some permanent roles to a contract basis.