French protest Macron's labor plans

English-speaking Macron campaigns for French to be global language

Macron unveils strategy to promote French language

They are protesting against Macron's plans to push through sweeping changes to France's vast state rail system, including cutting costs by limiting special employment rights for rail workers.

But Thursday's strike marked a new joint phase in trade union action - the first time civil servants and railway staff had joined forces against Macron. Labor unions plan their biggest protest against changes at SNCF, the indebted national railroad, with less than half of high-speed trains and as few as a quarter of regular inter-city services to run normally on Thursday.

The numbers were smaller than in previous demonstrations against Macron's labour reforms as well as the anti labour reform demos that took place under his predecessor François Hollande.

Macron's administration plans to reduce public sector jobs by 120,000 by 2020, according to Express.

France is part of a US-led coalition fighting against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and also has thousands of soldiers in West Africa fighting al Qaeda-linked militants.

Turnout was much stronger amid railway staff, who grounded sixty percent of fast trains and 75 percent of inter-city trains, while 30 percent of flights to and from Paris airports were cancelled. Paris public transport faces only limited disruption, with metros and buses running close to normal service.

But only 13% of central government workers walked off the job, down marginally from an October strike, the government said, in a sign that unions may still be struggling to raise the street against the president.

Those cancellations come ahead of a separate strike by Air France pilots and cabin crew Friday seeking a six-percent raise.

While Thursday's strikes are likely to inconvenience many travelers, Macron was elected on a mandate of reforming the country's famously rigid labor laws.

"This visit will advance American and French cooperation on economic and global issues and deepen the friendship between the two countries", White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

A French police officer who exchanged himself for a hostage during a siege at a supermarket in southwestern France died overnight, officials said Saturday. "What this government is doing is simply not OK", said 65-year old pensioner Françoise Rauch, a former SNCF rail operator who said he was also protesting tax hikes on pensions.

Outlining his plan past year, Macron said that his reform package would aim to give companies more hiring and firing flexibilities, more power to negotiate working conditions directly with employees and less financial risk in cases of wrongful dismissals.

Macron has so far been spared the scale of industrial action seen under his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande, but tensions have been growing. Recent surveys suggest that while a large chunk of voters support the strikes, a majority backs the reforms, Reuters reported.

Retirees have come out to demonstrate over tax changes that reduce their pensions and prison guards staged almost two weeks of protests in January over security risks and poor pay.

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