Teachers and parents joined marching students in opposition to President Nicolas Sarkosy's plan to cut education jobs, gearing-up for a massive public-sector strike on Thursday.
More than 20,000 French high school students, parents and teachers marched in Paris on Sunday against plans by President Nicolas Sarkozy's government to cut thousands of jobs in education.
"Enough of these fools, who shut factories and shut schools!" chanted the demonstrators, who numbered around 20,000 according to police and 35,000 according to unions.
Unions fiercely oppose the government's plans to cut 22,900 civil servant jobs including 11,200 in education this September, and another 35,000 next year, mostly by not replacing retiring employees.
"We are getting no answers in this conflict. The government has to take steps to relaunch talks," said the head of the FSU union, Gerard Aschieri, at the head of the march.
Speaking on Europe 1 radio, however, Education Minister Xavier Darcos ruled out any softening or abandonment of the proposed cutbacks.
"Of course not," he said. "We have a will to reform, and regardless of the scale of the demonstrations ... never will they infringe on the democratic legitimacy of this government which has a mandate to reform."
That said, Darcos added, the government would "listen" to the teaching community.
Sunday's rally came three days after a major strike in which hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil servants walked off the job in protest, and ahead of a fresh public sector strike on Thursday.
Sarkozy campaigned for the presidency last year on a plan to trim down the civil service as part of a broader plan to overhaul the state and bring down public spending.
Darcos has stressed the government's determination to pare down the education department, the biggest ministry employing some 1.2 million people, in line with a recent fall in student numbers.
High school students have since March staged protests that have at times turned violent against the planned job cuts in education.
Unions at the SNCF rail operator, RATP Paris metro service and Air France have called a strike for Thursday against plans to make public sector employees work an extra year to be entitled to a full pension.
Date created : 2008-05-18