French public sector workers in nationwide protests against jobs cull

Nationwide street protests called by public sector workers' unions against government plans to reduce 120,000 jobs by 2022 drew between around 110,000-250,000 demonstrators according to, respectively, interior ministry estimates and those of unions, ahead of draft legislation due to be debated before parliament next week.

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French civil servants protested on Thursday against a proposed government bill supposed to “modernise” their status which the National Assembly is scheduled to examine on May 13th, reports FRANCE 24.

The government’s divisive reform aims to facilitate the use of ‘contract workers’ to make the state more reactive to short-term employee problems (for example, staff shortages). The proposals are set to be examined by a Council of Ministers [cabinet meeting] on March 27th.

The proposed legislation is part of a target to eliminate 120,000 jobs by 2022, as a solution to Yellow Vest demands for tax reductions.

Unions argue that ‘contract staff’ (which in Anglophone countries is somewhat similar to ‘freelance’ workers) will not have the same rights and in some cases will not be correctly trained.

According to Francette Popineau, secretary general of SNUipp-FSU (one of the key primary school unions), teachers are particularly concerned about their future.

Many hospital staff are also deeply concerned, with Patrick Bourdillon of the CGT Union (health/social) saying “we have reached a point of no return” with services “exploding”.

Responding to a call to arms from France’s main public service unions (CGT, CFDT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, Unsa, FA-FP, CFE-CGC, CFTC) who represent 5.5 million state employees, workers took to the streets across the country.

According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were 108,900 demonstrators across France. The CGT put the figure much higher, at 250,000.

The unions denounce the planned reforms, describing it as “having very disturbing consequences”.

In Marseille, 3,500 to 4,000 demonstrators took to the city’s main boulevard Canebière, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

In Lyon, local authorities claimed 3,300 people demonstrated but the unions put the number at 5,300. There were almost as many in Nantes, where school teachers, public finance workers and hospital staff marched, with support from some Yellow Vest activists. Leading the protest were employees of emergency rooms at France University Hospitals who chanted: “patients everywhere and no nurses!” and “hospital in danger!”

Read more of this report from FRANCE 24.


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