French public sector workers are staging strikes across France in protest at labour reforms. As David Pollard reports, President Macron is finding it increasingly hard to bring in the economic reforms many think France needs.
As the marches got under way, there was little sign of the violence that's marred previous demonstrations. Security forces standing back from potential conflict .... Mindful perhaps they, too, are French public sector workers. (SOUNDBITE) (French) HEAD OF FSU WORKERS UNION, BERNADETTE CROIZON, SAYING: "The government has kept on taking negative measures. The public service sector is the most mistreated of all since Emmanuel Macron took office, freezing the index point, reducing sick leave, with his plans to get rid of 120,000 jobs." According to critics, Macron is the 'president of the rich'. He argues reforms are necessary to boost growth and rein in public finances. Similar private sector protests last month failed to get him to back track. But these marches are the first time all France's public sector unions have rallied together - in over a decade. Forcing airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and disrupting schools - and their students. 2157 (SOUNDBITE) (French) HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT, BONNIE, SAYING: "Our school is directly impacted because a quarter of the funding has been taken away ... We have to do something because it's our duty." But the ministry of education said fewer than one in five teachers were on strike. Leaving some watchers asking whether there was sufficient turnout to make Macron think again. (SOUNDBITE) (English) WILSON KING INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT, HEAD OF RESEARCH, RICHARD HUNTER, SAYING: "It may well be that parts of France are fairly unaware that there's a strike in progress ... In terms of Macron's recent election, he was very much elected with these reforms in mind. So whilst there will inevitably be objections to the reforms I think it's fair to say the French knew they were coming." Though not fast enough yet to stop one cherished institution. These protesters in Nantes taking time off for lunch ..... Reform still too hard to swallow for many of them.