French unions strike against Macron

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France's centrist president, who has been in power for almost a year, has so far avoided large strikes and trade union action, managing to easily push through an overhaul of labour laws in the autumn despite limited street marches.

However, he added that people had elected Mr Macron for change and "zero reform is no longer an option".

"It's a real mess", said Didier Samba, who missed his morning commuter train to the Paris suburbs and had more than an hour's wait for the next.

As a result of the strikes hundreds of flights and train services were cancelled and scores of schools and creches closed their doors on Thursday.

Macron's government has justified its plans by arguing that it was what people voted for last May.

But a leaked letter from an official at the hardline CGT union, the biggest at the SNCF, suggests that workers are gearing up to cause maximum disruptions while minimising the impact from lost wages.

Thousands of public servants had already staged a one-day strike in October against his plans to cut 120,000 jobs over his five-year term, as well as a pay freeze and a plan for more outsourcing and voluntary buyouts that unions say will remove job security.

Railway workers are planning on striking for 2 days out of 5 between April and June, which they think will prove to Macron that they mean business, but he hopes it'll just turn the public against them.

"This is a necessary, indispensable reform", Borne said, appearing on France's BFM TV.

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But these changes - particularly with regard to the railways - strike at the heart of a system that has always been a model of the French state's collective commitments, both to transport and to those who run it.

The dinner is scheduled to take place a day before Marcon's Congressional address. "It has to be said that since 1995 we've taken one hiding after another", says the message, urging workers to revolt.

The greater Paris region of Île-de-France was particularly badly hit by the industrial action.

Almost 50,000 demonstrators protested in Paris to call for more investment in public services.

In the past, governments have quickly backed down in the face of massive protests. Then-Prime Minister Alain Juppe had proposed restructuring SNCF, the state railroad system, and higher retirement ages for drivers. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of a 1968 student uprising that grew into the largest public protest in modern French history.

"They seem to consider that in France. the private sector can do everything and that we don't need public servants like me".

"Obviously our attitude is that we are ready to listen, but we are also very determined to pursue these transformations", government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Thursday.

The question is whom the French will blame when the inevitable disruptions to public life occur, Grunberg said.

The planned strikes are now not part of a unified union opposition, unlike in the past.