French interior minister Gérard Collomb has ignited a fierce row after accusing union organisers of recent nationwide street marches against government policy, during which there have been violent attacks by extremist anti-capitalist groups on shops, banks and vehicles, of being 'accomplices' to the events by not preventing them.
Despite unrest from students, rail and airline workers, union are staging separate rallies in France to mark International Workers Day.
Turnout in nationwide street protests in France on Thursday against the government's programme of economic reforms, notably in the public sector and of the state-run railway system in particular, was significantly lower than a similar day of demonstrations in March, with police estimating around 110,000 people took part, while unions claimed the figure was 300,000.
Thousands of French rail workers will go on strike for two out of every five days until the end of June, crippling train traffic for 36 days.
Hours after French government unveiled details of its far-reaching rail reforms, rail union leaders said they were stepping up strike plans.
Officials estimated the crowds at 132,000 across France, just over half the number who took part last week in similar union street protests.
Truck drivers fear changes will affect small firms that make up 75-80% of profession by creating 'unfair competition' and reducing job security.
The way president handles planned labour reforms will set tone for coming years, including a revamp of jobless benefits and retirement systems.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday met with trades union leaders to discuss the sweeping labour law reforms he plans to introduce this summer, which were a key element of his election manifesto and which include making hiring and firing easier, moving wage bargaining to company level and capping financial awards to employees by labour tribunals.
Finance minister Michel Sapin says CGT union is holding France hostage and that government will take the necessary action to end blockade.
From 2019, most employees in private sector will have to work until 63 to get full pension, but will get a bonus if they delay retirement until 64.
Xavier Broseta says he bears no grudges over Paris attack by airline workers but insists redundancy plans must go ahead.
Morena Henriquez packs airline meals for more than 10 hours a day in a refrigerated area. Chef Rafael León has to provide his own knives and sometimes squats on the floor to prepare the in-flight meals because he has no work surface. Both earn minimal wages. These are not workers in a developing country but staff at a Los Angeles-based associate of airline giant Air France-KLM. They flew to Paris recently to confront the airline's shareholders over their miserable working conditions. And now its management has finally agreed to intervene on their behalf with its American partner. Dan Israel reports on the fight against working conditions that one French trade union official has described as “modern-day slavery”.