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Huge crowds join French strikes

Discussion in 'European Politics' started by The Scotsman, Jan 30, 2009.

  1. The Scotsman

    The Scotsman Well-Known Member

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    Huge crowds have taken to the streets in France to protest over the handling of the economic crisis, causing disruption to rail and air services.

    Unions said 2.5m workers had rallied to demand action to protect wages and jobs. Police put the total at 1m.

    President Nicolas Sarkozy said concerns over the crisis were legitimate and the government had to listen and act.

    He will meet union and business leaders next month to discuss what programme of reforms to follow this year, he said.

    Overall, the government estimated that a quarter of the country's public sector workers had joined the action, which was called by eight major French unions. The unions put the figure higher.

    CGT leader Bernard Thibault called on Mr Sarkozy to recognise the gravity of the situation and "reassess his measures" to deal with the economic crisis.

    In Paris, police said some 65,000 demonstrators had joined a march from the Place de la Bastille towards the centre of the city.

    There were reports of violent outbreaks on the outskirts of the protest as it reached central Paris, with dozens of youths throwing bottles and lighting fires in a main shopping street.

    Police in riot gear charged the youths, pushing them back on to the Place de l'Opera where the crowds were gathering, but the situation remained volatile.

    There were repeated baton charges, and after fires were lit on some of Paris' best-known boulevards, police used tear gas on the minority of protesters who were violent.

    Earlier, some 25,000 to 30,000 people rallied in the city of Lyon, according to organisers and police.

    In Marseille, organisers and the authorities disagreed, with the former putting the number of demonstrators at 300,000 but the police estimating 24,000 had taken part.

    The protests are against the worsening economic climate in France and at what people believe to be the government's poor handling of the crisis.

    Opposition Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry said people were out in the streets "to express what worries them: the fact that they work and yet cannot make ends meet, retired people who just can't make it [financially], the fear of redundancies, and a president of the Republic and a government that just don't want to change policy".

    A spokesman for the CGT union told AFP that 2.5m people across the country had taken part in the day's protests. French police put the number at just over 1m.

    CGT leader Bernard Thibault called on Mr Sarkozy to recognise the gravity of the situation and "reassess his measures" to deal with the economic crisis.

    In Paris, police said some 65,000 demonstrators had joined a march from the Place de la Bastille towards the centre of the city.

    There were reports of violent outbreaks on the outskirts of the protest as it reached central Paris, with dozens of youths throwing bottles and lighting fires in a main shopping street.

    Police in riot gear charged the youths, pushing them back on to the Place de l'Opera where the crowds were gathering, but the situation remained volatile.

    There were repeated baton charges, and after fires were lit on some of Paris' best-known boulevards, police used tear gas on the minority of protesters who were violent.

    Earlier, some 25,000 to 30,000 people rallied in the city of Lyon, according to organisers and police.

    In Marseille, organisers and the authorities disagreed, with the former putting the number of demonstrators at 300,000 but the police estimating 24,000 had taken part.

    The protests are against the worsening economic climate in France and at what people believe to be the government's poor handling of the crisis.

    Opposition Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry said people were out in the streets "to express what worries them: the fact that they work and yet cannot make ends meet, retired people who just can't make it [financially], the fear of redundancies, and a president of the Republic and a government that just don't want to change policy".

    Staying home

    The strike action disrupted transport services but did not cause the paralysis forecast by unions. Regional trains and those in and around Paris were hit, and a third of flights from Orly airport were cancelled.

    Forty per cent of regional services were running, train operator SNCF said, and 60% of high-speed TGV services. Three-quarters of metro trains were running in Paris.

    Paris's second airport was heavily hit by the strike, but flights out of the larger Charles de Gaulle hub were experiencing only short delays, AFP news agency said.

    Schools, banks, hospitals, post offices and courts were also hit as workers stayed at home. Officials said just over a third of teachers and a quarter of postal and power company workers were on strike.

    According to a 25 January poll by CSA-Opinion for Le Parisien, 69% of the French public backs the strike.

    "I'm tired and frozen after waiting half-an-hour on the platform," commuter Sandrine Dermont told AFP as she arrived by train in Paris.

    "But I'm prepared to accept that when it's a movement to defend our spending power and jobs. I'll join the street protests during my lunch break," she said.

    Hit hard

    Many people are furious that Mr Sarkozy said there was no money left to raise wages and consumer spending power, but nonetheless managed to find billions of euros to bail out floundering French banks, says the BBC's Emma-Jane Kirby in Paris.

    The walk-out has affected transport, education and postal services throughout the country, our correspondent says, and is the biggest one-day strike since Mr Sarkozy took up office.

    With unemployment looking likely to reach 10% next year, she says, the protesters hope he will drop his programme of cost-cutting reforms and focus instead on protecting workers' jobs and wages.

    Mr Sarkozy cannot ignore this demonstration of anger, our correspondent adds. Street protests have repeatedly brought down French leaders and Mr Sarkozy does not want his government added to that list of casualties.

    "We want to show how the people are dissatisfied with the situation at the moment," Thierry Dedieu of the CFDT general workers' union told the BBC.

    People had the feeling they were paying for a crisis they were not responsible for, he added.

    But earlier in the week, French Finance Minister Eric Woerth condemned the strike organisers, accusing them of scare-mongering during a time of economic uncertainty.


    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7857435.stm
     
  2. Bunz

    Bunz New Member

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    Its Paris, let them burn it down. ;)
     
  3. Dr.Who

    Dr.Who Well-Known Member

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    Hmmm? 25% of the countries work force turned out to protest.

    That is a really high percent of unhappy people.
     
  4. Dante the Marxist

    Dante the Marxist New Member

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    Obvious proof of growing revolutionary sentiments. It won't be long now...
     
  5. samsara15

    samsara15 Member

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    I wouldn't hold my breath.
     
  6. Dr.Who

    Dr.Who Well-Known Member

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    I doubt it is revolutionary but it does represent that in an economy any one thing is interconnected with every other.

    People hold out the French health care system as a model for what we should do despite the warnings from conservatives that it would wreck our economy.

    If you want to see protests in the US with 25% of the workforce unhappy then go ahead and copy the French.
     
  7. Dante the Marxist

    Dante the Marxist New Member

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    Do you mean copy the french government or the french workers?
     
  8. Dr.Who

    Dr.Who Well-Known Member

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    I mean that if we as a country copy the French model of health care then our workers will eventually be copying the French workers who protest in droves because they are unhappy.
     
  9. dfy9476837

    dfy9476837 New Member

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