Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine

Read more

FOCUS

As France’s Carrefour pulls out, what next for India’s retail market?

Read more

#TECH 24

Internet of Things

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - July 25th, 2014 (part 2)

Read more

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - July 25th, 2014

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Search of Air Algerie crash site continues

Read more

  • Israel denies responsibility for air strike on Gaza hospital

    Read more

  • France offers asylum to Iraqi Christians

    Read more

  • In pictures: From Gaza to Mosul, bittersweet end of Ramadan for Muslims

    Read more

  • Moroccan police arrest French al-Qaeda recruiter

    Read more

  • French footballer Griezmann headed to Atletico Madrid

    Read more

  • Russia ordered to pay Yukos shareholders over $50bn in damages

    Read more

  • Video: Slaviansk mourns mass grave victims

    Read more

  • Luc Besson’s sci-fi thriller ‘Lucy’ tops US box office

    Read more

  • France honours those lost on Air Algérie Flight AH5017

    Read more

  • Video: Ethiopia turns to wine to boost image, economy

    Read more

  • Thousands gather in Marseille in support of Israel

    Read more

  • As France’s Carrefour pulls out, what next for India’s retail market?

    Read more

  • Liberia tightens border controls to curb Ebola outbreak

    Read more

  • The centenary of Austria-Hungary’s calamitous last hurrah

    Read more

  • UN Security Council calls for immediate Gaza ceasefire

    Read more

  • Nibali joins elite group with Tour de France win

    Read more

  • France calls on its nationals to leave Libya as violence escalates

    Read more

  • Boko Haram kidnap Cameroon minister's wife in deadly attack

    Read more

  • ‘Irresponsible’ American dad tries to scale Mont Blanc with children

    Read more

France

Workers mobilise, but Sarkozy stands firm

Video by Siobhán SILKE , Elisabeth ALLAIN

Latest update : 2009-01-31

Following one of the largest, pan-union strikes in recent French history on Thursday, President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to meet union leaders, but he expressed no intention of changing the content of his economic programme.

Do strikes go unnoticed now? FRANCE 24 Observers share their views and photos of the demos

 

Hundreds of thousands of strikers marched through French cities on Thursday to demand pay rises and protection for jobs, challenging President Nicolas Sarkozy to do more for ordinary workers.

 

The streets filled with flag-waving protesters, but the one-day strike failed to paralyse the country and support from private sector workers appeared limited.

 

 

After dark, as Paris crowds thinned, some protesters clashed with police, throwing bottles, overturning cars and starting a fire in the street, but no major violence was reported.

 

Labour leaders hailed the strikes and rallies, which marked the first time France’s eight union federations had joined forces against the government since Sarkozy took office in 2007.

 

“This is one of the biggest days of worker action in the past 20 years,” said Francois Chereque, head of the large, moderate CFDT group.

 

Unions said 2.5 million people took part in dozens of rallies across France, including 300,000 in Paris. Police put the figure at just over a million nationwide.

 

“The government has taken measures for banks but today it is the workers who are suffering,” said striker Charles Foulard, a technician at a refinery run by energy giant Total.

 

“This crisis comes from the United States, it’s the financial bubble that is bursting. It’s not for the workers to pay for that,” he said as crowds gathered at the Place de la Bastille in Paris, birthplace of the French Revolution.

 

In a rare show of unity, the unions drew up a joint list of demands for the government and companies, saying Sarkozy should drop reforms they see as a threat to public services and aim stimulus measures at consumers rather than companies.

 
 
Government stands firm
 

Specific demands included better pay and conditions for public transport workers and the abandonment of plans to reform hospitals, cut 13,500 jobs in education this year and change the status of the state-owned post office.

 

Unlike in 1995 and 2006, when mass strikes forced the governments of the day to back down on reform plans, public transport continued to run on Thursday, albeit on a reduced and erratic schedule, and many schools stayed open.

 

Perhaps encouraged by that fact, ministers indicated they were not ready to review their 26 billion euro ($34 billion) economic stimulus plan, which is aimed at encouraging industrial investment rather than boosting consumer spending.

 

“I don’t think one can constantly zap and change policy,” said Budget Minister Eric Woerth. “We have to keep our cool during this very major storm,” he told RMC radio.

 

Sarkozy, however, struck a conciliatory tone, saying people’s concerns were “legitimate”.

 

“This crisis imposes a duty on the public authorities to listen, to hold a dialogue, and at the same time a strong determination to act,” he said in a statement, adding that he would meet union leaders next month to discuss planned reforms.

 

France’s economic woes are less severe than Spain’s or Britain’s but its jobless rate is rising, hitting 2.07 million in November, up 8.5 percent on the year, and unions say Sarkozy’s policies are not helping ordinary people.

 

“I am protesting against wages that are stagnating, demands on workers that are constantly increasing, and understaffing.  It’s my first strike in the 20 years I’ve been on the job,” said Malika Youcef, who works at a school canteen in Paris.

 

At the Paris march, hospital workers in white coats mingled with Air France staff carrying model planes, chemical factory workers, teachers and plumbers, among other professions.

 

The powerful CGT union was out in force, with its red balloons filling the horizon and loudspeakers blasting the revolutionary song “The Internationale”. Other unions favoured the hippy anthem “California Dreamin’”.

 

Date created : 2009-01-30

COMMENT(S)