Macron warned ‘tip of the iceberg’ as thousands of furious protesters descend on streets

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The General Confederation of Labour (CBT) is France’ largest union and held a joint protest yesterday to defend employment and public services. The demonstration saw thousands attend, as people marched with banners, flags and colourful flares from Paris’ the Place de la République to Place de la Nation.

The CGT held the protest in conjunction with the unions FSU and Solidaires, as well as youth organisations.

Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the CGT, said: “This Thursday, we affirm, at national and inter-professional levels, that it is impossible to put aside the current struggles for employment and the improvement of working conditions in the name of a national pseudo-unity against COVID-19.”

He added: “Bruno Le Maire [French politician] tells us that this is not the time to have a social spring. On the contrary.”

CGT said 20,000 people attended the demonstration, which started at 2.30pm on Thursday.

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Mr Martinez suggested more people would have attended but several employees feared taking to the streets because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Simon Duteil, co-delegate general of Solidaires, warned the situation was “the tip of the iceberg”.

He said: “We are in a dynamic that may seem slow in a period when everything is complicated” but the demonstration is “the tip of the iceberg in terms of social anger”.

The protests centred on employment rights, such as wages, working hours and pensions.

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Pictures show demonstrators holding bright red banners reading: “For employment, employees and social progress.”

Other posters depicted the head of French President Emmanuel Macron as the coronavirus.

The main demonstration took place in the French capital, but 165 initiatives were also identified throughout France.

Other areas include: Nantes, Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Roanne and Rennes.

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Health workers were among the 2,800 people to attend the protest in Marseille.

Grégory Fontaine, deputy nurse at the Timone hospital, said: “Caregivers are exhausted.

“It’s been a year since this pandemic began.

“Nothing has been done to strengthen the resources of hospitals.”

As well as the union protests, about 100 EDF employers gathered in front of the National Assembly to protest against the controversial plan to reorganise the energy sector in France.

MEP Manon Aubry said in response: “The employees of EDF once again mobilised against the Hercules plan of the government and the European Commission!

“We stand by your side to defend public energy management!”

Last month a number of protests were held across France, in protest of a third national lockdown, education and the health sector.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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