What to expect as strike action hits France

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Macron's approval ratings, 10 months into his term, are comparable to those of former presidents François Hollande (35 percent) and Nicolas Sarkozy (40 percent), according to the poll conducted by BVA, which surveyed 1,053 people on March 21 and 22.

French President Emmanuel Macron gives a joint press conference with Germany's chancellor at the Eylsee presidential Palace in Paris Thomson Reuters PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron's government plans to tighten controls on the unemployed and increase penalties against those who fail to look hard enough for a job, the labor ministry and union leaders said on Monday.

Some commentators have reached into the past to draw parallels with more recent confrontations, particularly to 1995 when weeks of strikes paralysed the country and forced the government to abandon a pension reform.

"We're here against the government, which is only helping the rich". They are protesting against Macron's plans to push through sweeping changes to France's vast state rail system, including cutting costs by limiting special employment rights for rail workers.

"We're going to do everything possible to help passengers", Pepy said, adding that the SNCF's national headquarters and regional offices would be closed in order to free up personnel.

The Paris Metro was running normally, but suburban trains were affected by the strike.

Macron aims to eliminate 120,000 civil-service jobs, privatize the national railways and stop hiring new railway workers during his 5-year tenure.

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On the railways, plans to drop guaranteed job security and other benefits for new recruits have riled unionists who also fear that a restructuring of the SNCF could eventually see it privatised.

Trade unions called rail workers to stage rolling strikes by stopping work two out of every five days over a three-month period from April 3.

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 disruption is expected to cause a major headache for management even on non-strike days because trains and staff will not be where they are supposed to be.

Flights out of Paris Charles-de-Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais have been cut by a third while Air France has said it is managing to fly 60% of its short-haul flights, 75% of medium-distance and all long-distance flights.

Those cancellations come ahead of a separate strike by Air France pilots and cabin crew Friday seeking a six-per cent raise.

On the other hand, a total of 13 secondary schools of this capital dawned with blockades by groups of students joining the strike, while universities also report interruptions and closure of some centers.