Almost 200 protests took place Tuesday in cities and towns across France as major unions called for strikes against the austerity measures being put in place by the government of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France’s main CGT communist trade union leader Bernard Thibaud said on French television that the “operation was a success” but police said that there were only tens-of-thousands of protesters on the streets Tuesday compared with over two million in similar marches last year.
The strike call did not appear to have a significant impact on public transport, which is usually hard hit during union protests.
Some disruptions were reported in schools, where teachers are traditionally mobilized against conservative governments.
The unions are calling for more job creation, better benefits and higher taxes on the rich and a halt to company closures to move operations to cheaper labour markets, mainly in Asia.
France has presidential and parliamentary elections in 2012 and Sarkozy is currently polling at some of his lowest levels since coming to office in 2007.
While unions and opposition parties blame him for the harsh economic conditions and the austerity and cost-cutting, Sarkozy blames the international climate and the successive financial, banking and debt crises that have caused global recession and hampered economic growth.