Hundreds of thousands of workers, students, and retirees took part in mass demonstrations in more than 100 rallies across France on 9th October 2018. They came out on the streets of Paris, Lyons, Toulouse and many other cities to reiterate their opposition to the attacks on labour rights by the government of French President Macron. The protestors demanded an increase in wages, pensions and an end to privatisation.
According to organizers, more than 300,000 people including workers, students, retirees and others, participated in marches in more than a hundred places across the country. As many as 50,000 people participated in Paris alone. Workers across health, education, transport, postal and communication and metallurgy sectors participated in the protests.
The call to action issued jointly by six unions on 30th August denounced the Macron government’s anti-labour, anti-student and anti-retirees policy, which is a continuation of the policies of the previous regime of President Hollande. As is the case in all capitalist countries, Macron came to power in May 2017 promising a big change in favour of the people. However, within months after coming to power in May 2017, the government passed five ordinances to bring anti-labour changes to the country’s labour code.
These changes make it easier for companies to fire their workers; firms with fewer than 20 staff can negotiate directly with individuals instead of a union branch. This would contribute significantly to diluting the power of collective bargaining. The government also proposed a cap on damages paid to workers for unfair dismissal.
A rampant plan for privatisation is also underway in the fields of energy and transportation. Privatisation of airports and similar efforts in the railway sector had earlier invoked widespread protests from aviation and rail workers.
The Macron government has slashed housing benefits, imposed taxes on pension and restricted entry to university admissions. This has angered the youth and students, who issued a press statement on 5th October condemning the government’s attack on the universal right to access education opportunities.
The mass strike action on 9th October follows a series of such mass actions in 2017; the largest one was in September 2017, which included more than 4000 strikes and protests in 200 cities and towns across France. The latest action is a reflection of the mass discontent in France against the government’s policies.