PARIS, France - Protesting against French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to cull jobs and toughen pay conditions, several French public sector workers went on strike on Tuesday.
The protests forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and disrupted school activities.
Several civil servants, teachers and nurses marched through cities across France, from Toulouse in the south to Strasbourg in the east, before the day’s biggest rally in Paris.
According to local reports, this was the first time in a decade that all unions representing more than 5 million public workers rallied behind a protest call.
Mylene Jacquot, head of the civil servants’ federation at the moderate CFDT, France’s biggest trade union said, “We want to make our voices heard after months and months of attacks against the public sector and its workers. In particular, we want to force the government to make good on its promise regarding our spending power.”
Strikes were witnessed in schools, hospitals, airports and government offices.
Macron’s social and economic reforms have received a mixed response in the country, with many protests witnessed in several cities.
Macron has argued that the reforms are needed to unlock economic growth and put public finances on a more sustainable footing.
Last month, the country witnessed protests against labor law reform that were led by private sector unions but failed to persuade Macron to change policy course.
According to the civil aviation authority, 30 percent of flights at airports nationwide had been canceled but there was no disruption on the rail network.
Further, the Ministry of Education said fewer than one in five teachers were on strike.
In recent days, Macron has come under fire from political opponents and the unions for treating workers with contempt.
The controversy broke out after the President was recorded describing a group of workers at a struggling factory as “kicking up a bloody mess.”
The comments came days after he called those who resisted reform “slackers.”
However, overall unions have been divided over Macron’s reforms so far.
Only the Communist Party-rooted CGT is spearheading street demonstrations against the loosening of employment laws.