Public sector workers and Emmanuel Macron are battling for French voters’ hearts

A third of railway workers and a quarter of teachers are on strike

A third of railway workers, a quarter of teachers, and tens of thousands more French public sector workers went on strike yesterday to protest against president Emmanuel Macron’s jobs cuts and changes to their working conditions.

What it means: France is changing. Their president Emmanuel Macron hasn’t faced protests like this since he started last year, but he’s not backing down.

Macron wants to reduce government spending by cutting jobs, going from fixed employment to contracted work, and lowering budgets. He thinks it will make France more , and better able to compete on a global scale.

The public sector employs over 5 million people, and many of them have pretty generous working conditions – French railway workers can retire at 52, for example – which Macron says are outdated, stemming from the days when these jobs entailed hard manual labor.

Over half of French voters support the strike,  but 75 per cent think Macron is probably going to go ahead with the reforms anyway. 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.

That’s the risky thing about striking – the idea is that you’re removing your ‘labour power’, and showing how much you’re worth to your employer. But you might just lose the support of the people you need to help keep up the pressure – i.e. the rest of the public.

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