Rail and public service strikes started on 18 March 2018 in France.
The trade unions were protesting against the multi-front reform drive proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron. In particular, the four main unions representing rail workers, called 'cheminots', were angered by the government’s plans for change at SNCF, including the abolition of job-for-life guarantees, automatic annual pay rises and generous early retirement.
Rail strikes were planned for two out of every five days from 3 April until 28 June 2018 unless the government dropped its plan. The strikes would affect both passenger trains and SNCF Fret, the freight branch of the company.
On 17 April 2018, the National Assembly - the lower house of Parliament - approved the bill that would abolish the state monopoly. Another vote was scheduled in the Senate - the upper house of parliament - in May before the process of parliamentary approval was completed.
The rail-workers were to be joined by employees of Air France who planned to carry out strikes throughout April in order to get a 6% salary increase.
Students also protested against Macron's reforms. His proposal to select students on merit struck a nerve among students who, in turn, started blocking university campuses. These blockades became increasingly more violent. Indeed, students occupying a lecture theatre in the Université de Montpellier were attacked by masked men. Students blocking universities in Paris were evacuated by riot police.
The situation in France was reminiscent of the May 68 strikes and industrial unrest.A wave of strikes hit France in the spring of 2018 with trade unions criticising the labour market reforms of the French government under President Emmanuel Macron.
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