Thousands protest across France
poolparty | May 16, 2008 at 10:28 amby
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Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, faced the latest test of his resolve to tackle the country's public sector as hundreds of thousands of teachers and civil servants went on strike to protest against job cuts.
Across France, workers marched in the streets in what unions said was a dress rehearsal for broader strike action next Thursday.
Sarkozy plans to cut 22,900 civil servant jobs including 11,200 in education this September, and another 35,000 next year.
Francois Chereque, head of the CFDT union, said: "This is a major day of protest. The only vision that the government has for the public service is an accountant's vision."
About 60 per cent of France's 740,000 teachers went on strike, according to union leaders, though the government put the figure lower at 39 per cent in high schools and 46 per cent in the primary sector.
Hospital workers, customs and tax officials and government employees and meteorologists have also joined in the strike.
In Paris, more than 50,000 civil servants, teachers, students and parents led by senior union leaders marched behind a banner that read "Together to defend and improve the public service".
Police put the figure in the capital at 18,000.
Outside of the capital, organisers said about 30,000 people turned out at a similar protest in Marseille, but police put the figure at 7,000.
In Grenoble, clashes broke out during a march of 2,000 students, as youths hurled cans and bottles at riot police who responded with tear gas.
There were also big marches in Bordeaux, Toulouse and Lyon.
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