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

Macron needs to be badly beaten

Protesters clashed with police in Paris pelting them with projectiles and armed police resorted to firing tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse protesters.

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. "If we do nothing, the government will not back down".

Some politicians have joined the demonstrations like the leader of France's Unconquered Movement Jean-Luc Melenchon who advocated to form a united front against the government plans.

For France's trade unions, it is a moment for them to show that they still wield power despite decades of declining membership numbers and new laws that have clipped their ability to shut down public services.

A lieutenant-colonel of the gendarmes who swapped himself in exchange for one of the hostages was fighting for his life in hospital, Macron said. 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.

On the rail front, only 40 per cent of high-speed TGV services and 25 per cent of regular trains will be running, with workers angry at the government's plans to shake up the state-owned and highly indebted SNCF rail network. "We're never happy when things change, yet we want things to change - that's the paradox of France", he tweeted last week.

Railway workers are anxious by government plans to scrap job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and generous early retirement. It hopes that the public will become exasperated by the disruption and turn against the strikes.

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

Meanwhile, a third of flights in and out of Paris' main airports - Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais - are set to be cancelled because of strikes by air traffic controllers.

Retirees have come out to demonstrate over tax changes that reduce their pensions and prison guards staged almost two weeks of protests in January over security risks and poor pay.

His political opponents on the left, including the Socialist party which lost power previous year and the hard-left France Unbowed party, have said they plan to take part.

The poll noted that support for Macron has decreased most significantly in low-income households - where only 21 percent hold a positive opinion of Macron - and among voters under 35, among other demographics.

"If Emmanuel Macron gives ground on such a symbolic reform and so close to his election (last May) his image of a reformer will be destroyed", veteran political commentator Alain Duhamel said last week.

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