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France

Angry French workers set to strike

Video by FRANCE 2 , Sarah DRURY

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-03-19

French public and private workers take to the streets on Thursday to protest government economic policies and rising job cuts. According to the latest French poll, more than 70 percent of the population supports Thursday's strikes.

Paris - Angry French workers take to the streets on Thursday, to protest government economic policies and surging job losses.

 

Labour unions called for strike action to protest ongoing restructuring and job cuts in the public and private sectors across the country.


All the main unions will participate in the stoppage on Thursday. The public transport workers’ strike is due to begin on Wednesday at  8 pm and last until Friday morning.


The turnout is expected to be higher than on Jan. 29, when at least two-and-a-half million people participated in union rallies, according to organizers, while police set the number at one million.
 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy offered a series of concessions in January but disgruntled union leaders called for a second round of public protests.


At least 74 percent of the population supports the movement, according to a French poll (link in French) published in the French financial daily Les Echos on Tuesday.
 
Public sector workers want an immediate halt to mass job cuts and a moratorium on suppression of posts listed in the 2009 budget.

 

Adding to the social tension, many French universities have been paralysed for weeks due to a strike by lecturers, professors and students against a government reform of higher education.
 

On Thursday, work of the postal, telecom and energy sectors will also be affected.


The social unrest also spread to the private sector after recent factory closures and rising fears of job losses.
 

German tyre manufacturer Continental announced the closure of a plant in northern France at a cost of 1,120 jobs, while Japan's Sony said it was shedding 311 jobs in the southwest.

 

Furious workers at Total have called for a 24-hour strike after the oil-giant announced the suppression of 555 posts in France despite a record profit of 13.9 billion euros in 2008.

 
 
More government effort
 
Worker unions want some of the fiscal packages and tax cuts offered by President Sarkozy revoked or reviewed. For example, tax and social security concessions on overtime work. Union leaders say employers find it more economical to make employees work overtime than to hire additional work force.


The French government has introduced a 26 billion euro ($34 billion) stimulus plan to help revive the economy. President Sarkozy offered up to 2.65 billion euros of additional aid in the wake of the protests in January, primarily to help vulnerable households.

 

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said last Friday “the government would not agree to further concessions, whatever happens on Thursday.”

Date created : 2009-03-19

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