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  • State-owned railway company SNCF employees and CGT labour union members during a demonstration in Paris, April 18.

    State-owned railway company SNCF employees and CGT labour union members during a demonstration in Paris, April 18. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 April 2018
Opinion

Rail workers, who embarked Wednesday on their fourth strike since the start of April, were out in force.

Striking rail workers, civil servants and students demonstrated across France Thursday against what they say is President Emmanuel Macron's privatization of the public sector in neoliberal reforms.

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According to the Interior Ministry, 119,500 people — just over half the 200,000 it said took to the streets on May 22— chanted and waved anti-Macron banners in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and other cities.

However, the CGT union, which organized most of the rallies, claimed a far higher turnout of nearly 300,000 — still slightly smaller than its estimate of half a million in May.

CGT leader Jean-Luc Martinez insisted the resistance was "getting bigger" — a view shared by anti-capitalist politician Philippe Poutou, who told BFMTV channel: "It's only starting to build."

Pressure has been mounting on Macron nearly a year since the 40-year-old former bank executive swept to power, with a survey by Ifop-Fiducial released Wednesday suggesting that 58 percent of voters are unhappy with his presidency.

"We're here for public services. We're ready to continue the whole summer, even into September and October," Helene Tricre, a 25-year-old ticket inspector working for the SNCF railway, told AFP at the start of the largely peaceful demonstration.

Only one in three high-speed TGV trains operated Thursday, but this was considerably higher than at the start of April when only one in eight took on passengers.

Progressive sectors accuse Macron of trying to privatize public services, citing his pledge to cut 120,000 public sector jobs over his five-year term.

Thursday's protests included many students who have blocked access to four of the country's 70 universities, angered by plans to make admissions more selective.

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