FRANCE SAW a wave of industrial protest this week in the biggest challenge to the country's right wing government since it came to office earlier this year. On Tuesday strikes and demonstrations took place across a range of public services.
Just as in Britain, the government claims it is 'modernising' public services. Workers know the reality is attacks on pay and conditions, and privatisation. Rail and Paris Metro workers, Air France workers, France Telecom workers and postal workers, as well as some tax and government employees, joined a 70,000-strong march through Paris.
There were also demonstrations in many towns around the country. Tuesday's demonstrations were accompanied by significant strikes, particularly by telecom workers and postal workers. On Monday lorry drivers began mounting blockades across the country, after pay talks with their employers broke down.
Most of the blockades were lifted by Tuesday, after the government took a hard line and in the face of divisions between unions. Also on Monday France's air traffic controllers began strikes over pay. The strike action forced the cancellation of scores of flights.
The Tory government of prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is being urged by France's bosses to press ahead with wholesale privatisation and to take on workers and the unions.
The government is keen to do so. But it is also fearful of provoking the kind of general revolt and widespread strikes that broke the back of the last Tory government in December 1995.