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Mass strikes on Thursday - how it affects you

The Local, Mar 21

Planes, trains and schools are all set to be hit on Thursday as rail workers and air traffic controllers join other public service workers in a nationwide day of protests against President Emmanuel Macron's reforms. Here's what you need to know and how you might be affected.

Main info

Rail services in France set to be severely disrupted with only 40 percent of TGV trains running

Airlines operating out of France's main airports have been asked to cancel 30 percent of fights

Paris Metro to run as normal, but RER services hit

Many schools and creches set to close as teachers and public service workers strike

Eurostar says it's still not sure if services will be affected

Rail workers have announced another 36 days of strike action

Thursday's strike looks set to be one of the biggest shows of opposition to the president’s agenda since he came to power last May.

And the strikes and day of protests are just a taster for what could come later in the spring with rail workers having announced 36 days of rolling two day strikes from April until the end of June, which we reported here.

President Macron and his government will be keeping a close eye on Thursday to gauge how bad things might get next month.

What are Thursday's strikes about?

Workers in different sectors have different reasons for going on strike or joining street protests but they are all demonstrating against the Macron reforms that affect them.

Most civil service unions have called for a day of strikes to oppose a proposed shake-up that will see pay freezes, changes to sick pay, some workers being offered redundancy packages and a more wide spread use of short term contracts.

School and hospital staff, civil servants, air traffic controllers will all join the walk out of public service workers.

Employees at the SNCF national rail company are angry at reforms which include plans to end the the special employment status enjoyed by many railway workers, which include early retirement and life-long job security. Although only new recruits will be affected.

Rail unions have called on them to join the civil servants’ protest.

Laurent Brun, head of the CGT Cheminots rail union, said the government would "bear responsibility for a very long and intense battle" in forcing through changes to the rail network. The government argues that SNCF is saddled with 46.6 billion euros of debt. The SNCF runs trains at a 30 percent higher cost than European neighbours.

Workers at the RATP Paris Metro authority have also been asked to strike in solidarity with civil servants.

Teachers’ unions have also called on education workers to take to the streets to demand more jobs to be able to properly carry out reforms such as cutting class sizes in poorer neighbourhoods.

Air traffic controllers are expected to join the protests to put pressure on the government to create more jobs in their sector.

What will be the impact of the strikes?

The government is bracing for major disruption, particularly to public transport, and "limited" strikes at schools and nurseries.

Indeed Thursday could see the biggest disruption to public services since Macron came to power.

It is impossible to predict how many people will go on strike or turn out for street protests. The protests that met his first reforms - of labour law - eventually fizzled out, but his plans to overhaul the civil service have sparked far more serious opposition.

Health workers, teachers, retirement home employees, and postal workers have been urged to protest.

The impact on train travel will be major, SNCF announced on Wednesday morning.

Only 40 percent of TGV services will operate and only half of the local TER trains. In the case of Intercité trains there will be even more disruption with only 25 percent due to be running.

Eurostar said they were still unsure if services would be impacted on Thursday.

Anyone travelling through Gare du Nord in Paris on the RER B will have to change trains and that will include those heading to and from Charles de Gaulle airport.

Air traffic could be seriously disrupted on Thursday due to the controllers’ strike. French aviation authority the DGAC has asked airlines to cut their services to and from France by 30 percent.

The main airlines affected will be Air France, Ryanair and easyJet.

Flights from the following airports will be hit: Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, Paris Orly, Paris Beauvais, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon and Nantes.

Note that disruptions to planes and trains could begin on Wednesday evening when workers walk off the job and last until Friday morning.

Passengers are urged to check their bookings with their airlines to see if their flight has been cancelled. They may be entitled to compensation and should ask the airlines.

To make matters worse for plane passengers, unrelated disputes will see Air France staff go on strike on Friday, and pilots from the airline Hop!, its domestic subsidiary.

Where will the strikes and protests take place?

They are due to take place across the entire country, with street protests planned in 140 different towns and cities.

How bad could the strikes get over the coming months?

Macron has so far been spared the scale of industrial action seen under his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande, but tensions have been growing.

Though surveys suggest a majority see rolling rail strikes as unjustified, they could potentially be the biggest since 1995, when weeks of walkouts paralysed the national network.

Tens of thousands of people have already taken to the streets in three rounds of protests over Macron's labour reforms.

Retirees have come out to demonstrate over tax changes that reduce their pensions and prison guards staged nearly two weeks of protests in January over security risks and poor pay.

Care workers have gone on strike twice in six weeks over stretched resources and unsanitary conditions in many state retirement homes.

And students have also taken to the streets over planned changes to university access, though in relatively small numbers.

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