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French strikes pile pressure on Macron

AFP-JijiPARIS (AFP-Jiji) — French civil servants angered by Emmanuel Macron’s plans to freeze their pay and eliminate 120,000 public jobs were to go on strike Tuesday, amplifying a revolt over the president’s cost-cutting, pro-business agenda.

Nine unions representing 5.4 million public workers called for a day of nationwide strikes and demonstrations to show their “profound disagreement” with Macron’s bid to transform the gargantuan public service.

The protests are the fourth in a series of demonstrations aimed at forcing the 39-year-old president to row back on his reforms.

“The government does not seem to have taken the full measure of the deep malaise among civil servants,” Laurent Berger, head of the CFDT, France’s second-biggest union, told Les Echos business daily. “They are suffering from being seen merely as a budgetary constraint and not as beneficial.”

For the first time since 2009, hospital unions called on medical staff to walk off the job.

Schools were also set to be affected and trains and flights were expected to be delayed.

This is the first time in a decade that all nine public-sector unions have issued a joint strike call.

It comes as Macron — who has been painted as a “president of the rich” by leftist critics — continues to take heat for a string of derogatory comments about disgruntled workers.

But Berger and other labour leaders have been divided over how to respond to Macron’s far-reaching shake-up of France’s labour code.

The hardline CGT union and the hard-left France Unbowed party organized three demonstrations last month over the changes, which make it easier for employers to lay off staff and do deals with workers at the company level, instead of across an industry or sector.Speech

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