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What the papers said 30 April 2018

rfi English, Apr 30

Railway workers strike hit by declining support on May Day eve; unions warn that President Macron may be celebrating too early.

The commentators note a dramatic drop in support for the strike by French railway workers which has disrupted travel around the country for close to a month.

Le Parisien carries a statement from the state-owned SNCF claiming that it expects a progressive return to normal traffic starting this Monday during the period running through the May Day holiday after six episodes of industrial action and disruptions that affected the return from holidays of some French vacationers over the weekend.

The publication says it is able to confirm that less than fifty percent of train drivers are now on strike adding that the railway transporter's latest release speaks about a more-or-less normal traffic on international high speed lines, 3 out of 4 inter-city trains and 9 out of 10 RER suburban trains running in the Paris region.

Some papers claim that the falling numbers of railway workers still on strike is a boost for the government of President Emmanuel Macron, which has vowed to press ahead with reforming the SNCF, despite opposition from trade unions.

L'Opinion is one of them. The right-wing daily says that 2018 will not be another 1995, when unions shut down the country for three months forcing Prime Minister Alain Juppé to withdraw his agenda of sweeping structural reforms. Macron will take full advantage of the dwindling fortunes of the unions argues the newspaper, adding that the blind defence of the public service à la française has been buried.

Les Echos upholds the view that the unions are too discredited to carry any weight in front of a determined president whose legitimacy is assured by his landslide election. The economic newspaper claims that Macron who got elected by denouncing forms of radicalism creeping into French politics, is now bent on cleaning up such influences in the social sector.

The daily also speaks to Laurent Berger leader of the large CFDT French Democratic Confederation of Labour. He says all that Macron dreams about is about occupying the central space of French politics for himself.

According to the left-leaning Libé the support President Emmanuel Macron enjoys from public opinion is unlikely to last forever, when as it puts it, you take into consideration the discontent rising here and there.

Libération says it warns that he will live to regret putting aside the unions which have the vocation of serving as a safety valve between government and the people.

Le Figaro agrees arguing that the unions themselves are the victims of a revolt of their members against their very own elected representatives. The right-wing publication says while it fully recognises the crucial role the unions play, it is worth noting that in recent years, they have been dwarfed by the vast majority of unaffiliated French citizens.

According to the right-wing newspaper, it may not be very wise on the part of Macron to ignore the grievances of the protesters warning that they do express the real concerns of the 'silent' majority.

The government's handling of the SNCF strike constitutes a serious breach of social laws in France writes L'Humanité in an editorial. By throwing the rail workers to the hounds it argues, is just the government simply laying bare Macron's secret vision to roll back hard-won gains of workers and to force France to turn its back on its social history.

The paper says May Day offers workers a great opportunity to express their disenchantment. "Everybody must be concerned by the dangers posed by generalised job insecurity", concludes l'Humanité.

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