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04 April 2018, 01:13 | Bernice Figueroa
Above French President Emmanuel Macron Image Credit Reuters
Passengers are sharing cars or canceling trips after national railway SNCF said the strike will halt 85 percent of France's high-speed trains and 75 percent of regional trains.
But worldwide services would be only marginally affected, he said, with about 75% of Eurostar trains running.
The disruption is set to continue on Wednesday as all trains from France to Switzerland and Italy have been cancelled.
He managed to pass controversial labor reforms in October, but the length and severity of the rail strikes are already earning comparisons with late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's showdown with coal miners in 1984.
However, labour unions hit back at the government's portrayal of railway workers.
The so-called Black Tuesday marked the first day of a series of strikes expected to last until the end of June. The next is scheduled for April 8-9. An Ifop poll released over the weekend said 46 percent think the SNCF strike is justified, while 53 percent say it isn't.
If Macron triumphs over the unions, it will set the tone for other key reform plans including revamping the education system and overhauling pensions.
Staff at state railway SNCF are leading the strike, but the energy and waste collection sectors are also affected. There are 36 days of strikes planned at the train operator over the coming months.
It will be a major test of the French trade unions' clout. Union bosses have also expressed concern that increasing the competitiveness of the railways could mean increased ticket prices for travelers.
Trains around France are grinding to a stop as unions stage a mass strike to challenge President Emmanuel Macron's strategy for making his country more economically competitive.
Farid Hachelef, a 32-year-old who works in construction, said he had spent the night in Paris with a friend rather than trying to travel in from the northern suburb of Argenteuil, "otherwise, I would never make it". "She's suggesting private companies that will use the SNCF personnel; this type of competition is savage and it's unacceptable". In response to proposed railway reforms, workers began striking April 2, and about 48 percent of all of France's railway workers are expected to participate in the strike on April 3. Many students joined the protest.
The railway workers leading the charge this time do not appear to have the same level of public backing, but Santinelli is optimistic. "That depends on the government - we are ready to discuss it", he said.
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