French strike against Macron reforms enters day two

Protesters hold up flares as French Labour unions members demonstrate against French government's pensions reform plans in Marseille as part of a day of national strike and protests in France, December 5, 2019. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

A strike that crippled public transport and closed schools across France entered a second day on Friday, with trade unions saying they planned to keep going until President Emmanuel Macron backs down from a planned reform of pensions.

The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who came to power in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful trade unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

The outcome depends on who blinks first – the unions who risk losing public support if the disruption goes on for too long, or the government which fears voters could side with the unions and blame officials for the standoff.

Macron’s government, along with many ordinary French citizens, have made plans to cope with the strike action through the weekend, but may take a different view on Monday, if the disruption extends into a second week.

Rail workers voted to extend their strike through Friday, while labour unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. Other trade unionists were due to decide early on Friday how long they would keep up the strike.

“We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down,” said 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos.

The industrial action already on Thursday brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets in Paris and forced the closure of parts of the Louvre Museum, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa”.