A NATIONWIDE general strike took place yesterday, as Air France workers joined striking railworkers, civil servants, power workers and rubbish collectors in a head-on battle against the Macron government. Echoing the French revolution of May/June 1968, students have occupied universities both in support of the striking workers and against Macron’s latest attack on education.
Students have been blocking a number of public universities over Macron’s plan to introduce more selective applications to get into universities. President Emmanuel Macron is determined to ‘do a Thatcher’ and privatise rail, electricity, rubbish collection and the civil service while bringing in big cuts to education.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Macron used French fighter jets last week to join the US and UK forces in their missile strike on Syria. He did this, as Tory PM May did, without the approval of France’s National Assembly.
The Air France workers were out for two days, yesterday and Tuesday. About 30 per cent of Air France flights scheduled on Tuesday were cancelled due to the strike. Crews and ground staff, whose wages have been frozen since 2011, are seeking a 6 per cent pay rise. They marked their eighth day of walkouts since February.
Some 45 per cent of long-haul flights were cancelled along with 35 per cent of medium-haul flights to and from Paris. According to Air France, the strikes will cost the company upwards of 220 million euros.
On Monday, Air France’s management offered a two per cent rise this year followed by an increase totalling five per cent over the following three years. Unions have until the end of the week to decide whether to accept the deal. The pilots’ main union, SNPL Air France, said yesterday that the offer doesn’t meet its demands. Union President Philippe Evain called it ‘totally ridiculous and indecent’. The fourth stage of the ongoing strike by workers at the French national rail carrier the SNCF brought the transport system to a halt with unions stating that their members were stronger then ever.
On Tuesday evening the National Assembly prepared to vote on a bill which will effectively open up the French rail system to privatisation. The CGT union, which represents the rail workers, also pledged its commitment to the rolling strike – which is set to continue until at least June 28, affecting 4.5 million daily passengers, with strikes taking place two days out of every five.
The CGT union blasted Macron as ‘a hesitant president who didn’t say much, who in all likelihood has not got a good understanding of the reform plans, and who, far from reassuring us, has strengthened the determination of the rail workers’.