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Mass protests against Macron reform plans as strikes hit trains, air travel

24 March 2018

France's President Macron presents measures to boost use of French overseas on the International Day of Francophonie Thomson Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) - House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited French President Emmanuel Macron to address Congress when he visits Washington in April, Ryan's office said on Wednesday. Apart from Paris, news reports said that violent clashes also broke out in the French city of Nantes.

Trade unions of the National Society of Railroads (SNCF) and officials of the public sector lead the mobilizations registered in dozens of French citioes and which affect sectors like air transport, railroads, schools and hospitals. Around 30 percent of flights were cancelled at Orly, Charles de Gaulle and Beauvais airports with Air France cancelling up to 40% of its short-haul flights.

The movement will be reinforced by stoppages at train services and cancellation of scheduled flights at France's main airports. The protest is expected to culminate at the Bastille monument in Paris where 25,000 demonstrators could gather to make their voices heard.

"The situation is very different from 1995".

Outlining his plan past year, Macron said that his reform package would aim to give companies more hiring and firing flexibilities, more power to negotiate working conditions directly with employees and less financial risk in cases of wrongful dismissals.

Schools across the country have been severely hit with many schools running only the minimum service and parents asked to give children picnics instead of school lunch as canteens are closed.

Laurence Michel, 48, joined the SNCF in 2008 through a program she said could well disappear with the government overhaul.

Heavy snow to continue through Wednesday
Wet snow is falling in the Piedmont Triad and, as the morning progresses, we could be dealing with slushy bridges and overpasses. The forecast high for the day will be about 70, with a 60 percent chance for rain, decreasing to 40 percent by Thursday night.

Macron was reported to have told advisors in private this week that he was feeling "serene" as the day of action drew near, adding that it was "not a cause for panic", according to the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.

Macron's government has insisted it will stand firm on its programme to cut state costs and is hoping public opinion will be exasperated by train disruption and not support the strikes.

THE LARGEST European airline association has claimed that more than 800 flights will be cancelled and the travel plans of 100,000 passengers will be affected across Europe as French air traffic controllers strike again today.

"Either the government listens or civil service workers will be extremely mobilized".

France's centrist president, who has been in power for almost a year, has so far avoided large strikes and trade union action, managing to easily push through an overhaul of labour laws in the autumn despite limited street marches.

"These strikes are always hard and we know that is not good for transport users and the public in general", Yves Veyrier a spokesman for the union Force Ouvriere told The Local.

"It's an alert to the government", said Laurent Berger, the head of CFDT, one of France's four major labor unions that called the strike.

Mass protests against Macron reform plans as strikes hit trains, air travel