Students’ protests, train strikes against reforms keep Macron on toes
Civil servants, workers in state retirement homes urged to go on strike on Thursday; energy union says workers are looking at “targeted” power cuts.world Updated: Apr 18, 2018 18:49 IST
Train drivers, public sector workers and students sought to pile pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday as fresh blockades of railway services and new protests disrupted commute and university studies against proposed reforms in the public sector.
Students occupied the prestigious Sciences Po university in Paris overnight, the latest campus to be blocked by protesters over higher education reforms which critics see as part of a rollback of public services.
“Sciences Po students against Macron’s dictatorship,” read a banner hung from a window of the university, which has groomed generations of French politicians including 40-year-old Macron himself.
The head of the University of Rouen in northern France also announced that its main campus would be shut, until at least the weekend, after student protesters blocked buildings.
The student sit-ins, which follow weeks of demonstrations at several universities around France, came as railway workers launched a fourth round of strikes that have led to mass cancellations nation-wide.
Only one in three high-speed TGVs and one in four inter-city trains were running on Wednesday with the same number expected the next day.
On Thursday, civil servants, workers in state retirement homes and students have all been urged to demonstrate for the second time in a month after a similar protest on March 22 drew 3,00,000 people onto the streets, according to police figures.
Unlike last time, the Paris metro faces disruptions tomorrow after unions announced they intended to strike.
Adding to the growing picture of defiance, the head of the energy branch of the hardline CGT union, Sebastien Menesplier, also announced that workers were looking at “targeted” power cuts pushing for the creation of a new national energy provider.
Macron, who sees his own credibility as a reformer on the line as he prepares to mark the first anniversary of his presidency on May 14, has insisted he will not back down on his bid to shake up the big-spending public sector.
A new poll by Ifop-Fiducial suggested 58% of French people were unhappy with his presidency, broadly in line with surveys showing his approval rating at around 40%.