By Hajer M'tiri
France braced on Thursday for travel chaos as millions of public sector employees, including school and hospital staff, civil servants, air traffic controllers, the national rail operator (SNCF) and Paris metro (RATP) workers strike to protest government labor reforms and planned job cuts.
A total of seven trade unions, including the CGT, FSU, Solidaires, CFTC, CFE-CGC, FA-FP and FO, called for a 'day of action' and more than 140 rallies have been planned in cities and towns nationwide in protest of government's proposed reforms that were announced on February 1.
The largest gathering will be held at the symbolic Place de la Bastille in Paris, and is expected to draw as many as 25,000 people.
The reforms include plans to freeze pay, tighten rules for sick days and to cut 120,000 jobs in the public sector by 2022.
SNCF has said that only 40 percent of high-speed TGV services will be running, and just one in four regular trains across the country. Four Eurostar trains have already been cancelled – two from Paris and two from London.
France's civil aviation authority said a third of flights into and out of the main Paris airports of Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Beauvais are cancelled.
The public service strike is only scheduled to last from Thursday to Friday morning. However, SNCF has announced rolling strikes starting April 3, which will see traffic disrupted two days a week over the course of three months.