Thousands of civil servants strike in France over Macron’s planned reforms

French civil servants throughout the country went on strike Thursday, protesting government plans to cut thousands of jobs over the next four years.

Riot police uses water cannon against protesters during clashes as part of a demonstration during a nation-wide strike day affecting public services, in Paris, France, March 22, 2018. A national strike day was called by public sector workers and labor unions to defend labor rights and pensions. EPA-EFE/Yoan Valat
Riot police uses water cannon against protesters during clashes as part of a demonstration during a nation-wide strike day affecting public services, in Paris, France, March 22, 2018. A national strike day was called by public sector workers and labor unions to defend labor rights and pensions. EPA-EFE/Yoan Valat

Protests took place in more than 150 towns and cities including Paris, where crowds swelled to about 200,000 people, and the western city of Nantes, where demonstrators clashed with police and at least one car was torched.

Public-sector workers, including teachers, nurses, rail workers and air traffic controllers, demonstrated against President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal that could lead to the reduction of 120,000 jobs by 2022. Also affecting the public sector’s 5.4 million employees, Macron has suggested implementing merit-based pay and ending early retirement and automatic annual pay raises.

An estimated 10 percent of public-sector workers took part in the mostly peaceful protests. Striking rail workers and air traffic controllers forced those sectors to cancel hundreds of trains and plane trips on Thursday.

Thursday morning, Air France said passengers should have expected 60 percent of short-haul flights to and from Paris’ Orly Airport and French provinces and 75 percent of medium-haul flights to and from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport to actually operate.

The airline is also dealing with its own private strike, which will take place Friday as its workers call for a six percent pay increase.

Ahead of those strikes Friday, the airline said it expected to operate 80 percent of those short-haul flights and 70 percent of those medium-haul flights — in addition to 70 percent of its long-haul flights.

Passengers can re-book flights at no extra cost, Air France said.

Polls indicate most French citizens back the striking state employees, but even more support the financial reforms Macron has proposed.

By Sommer Brokaw