April 26, 2018
Philippe and the protest movements
In France the stand-off with the trade unions over the reform of the rail company SNCF continues. Neither government nor unionists signalled that they would move their positions, but there are signs that things are moving nevertheless. Édouard Philippe invited the trade unions to talks in early May. Unionists were particularly angered about the government's latest plans to spin off freight transport into a separate company, and that the government is making the end of the workers' privileged status by 2020 a condition for the state to take over the SNCF debt, so Mediapart.
Participation in the rolling strikes, two days per week, has fallen too as only 20% of the unionists participated this week compared to 34% on the first day of the strike. But the number of striking conductors has not fallen, which means transport is still affected. When it comes to the details of the negotiations, trade unions are also apart from each other, be it about the end of workers' privileges or the preparation towards a more competitive rail market. The game is not over yet, but at least for now the pressure seems to ease off.
What happened to the student protests? In about five universities police forces cleared the spaces, according to Le Monde. Édouard Philippe, after meeting with the university presidents, warned that the government will do whatever it can to assure that exams can proceed. About ten universities are still occupied by students, most of them only partially but some totally. The students are protesting against the new student orientation law (ORE), which allows universities to pick their own students if oversubscribed. They argue that this is against the idea of a non-discriminatory university open to all.