Hundreds of thousands of workers struck and demonstrated on Tuesday in the latest round of their battle against French president Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal reforms.
Around 130 demonstrations and rallies took place across France. The coordinated public sector strike was called by nine union federations.
Those striking included civil service workers, teachers, lecturers, some hospital and social care workers, weather forecasters, postal workers, some lorry drivers, electricity workers and air traffic controllers.
The government increased workers’ anger this week by confirming that it wants to slash 120,000 public sector jobs by 2022.
Most rail workers, who have struck two days out of five since 4 April, were not due to start the latest round of their strikes until Tuesday night. But those in the Sud-Rail union walked out earlier to join the demonstrations.
Some schools were blockaded from early morning. And a large number of university students also took to the streets against a new selection process.
Health worker Juliette Fiat told Socialist Worker, “Some of us are on strike at our hospital.
“We all want to be out together—for the rail workers, for everyone. There needs to be a general strike, a convergence of the different struggles.”
Hundreds of thousands of workers were also set to take part in a “popular wave” of anti-Macron demonstrations on Saturday.
Jean-Luc Melenchon’s left wing France Insoumise party is one of the day’s organisers. “For the first time campaigning, union and political organisations are coming together to call a united day of mobilisation,” it said.
There is a broad welcome for coordination and cooperation on the streets, but it has to be followed by united and harder-hitting struggle by workers. One sign of the potential for a more extended movement came this week when parents, teachers and students occupied the Lycee Voltaire school in Paris.
Parent Muriel told Socialist Worker, “Macron wants changes throughout education. It will be harder to go to university and in schools teachers are supposed to rank children on things such as ‘commitment’ and ‘initiative’.
“There are also big cuts to counsellors.”
Further evidence of strikers' resolve came on the day after the public sector action. Rail unions announced workers had rejected Macron's privatisation and closure plans by 95 percent in a ballot.
The government is trying to divide its opponents.
The interior minister denounced Unef student union representative Maryam Pougetoux for wearing a headscarf when she gave a televised interview. He said her appearance was “shocking” and many others joined in.
Disgracefully Melenchon also attacked Pougetoux and said it was like him turning up at an interview with a giant cross.
But many students rallied round Pougetoux. Unef said she had been attacked “because she is a woman, a Muslim, wearing the veil, but also a student with a union position”.