Chirac gives PM 'full support' on strikes

As airline staff and teachers prepared to join the strikes that have paralysed France for almost two weeks, President Chirac yesterday put the full weight of his office behind Alain Juppe, expressing "his full support for the position set out by the Prime Minister".

With a true presidential touch, he also told the regular cabinet meeting that special provision should be made during the strikes for homeless people, deprived of the shelter of warm underground stations.

The majority of trade unions, including two of the biggest, the Force Ouvriere (FO) and the CGT, vowed to continue the strikes. Basking in the success of the nationwide protests on Tuesday, and the still-growing strike movement, they called today for further demonstrations to keep up the pressure on the government. The five rail unions have also voted to maintain their 12-day-old strike.

With the battlelines thus drawn, and no sign of either side retreating, the balance of forces - which until Tuesday appeared to favour the protesters - seemed to be shifting to the government. Even the union leader who has made much of the running, Marc Blondel of the FO, seemed to be looking for a way out when he called yesterday not only for the withdrawal of the "Juppe plan" but for "the opening without delay of negotiations at prime-ministerial level".

On a television discussion programme on Tuesday night, Mr Blondel and Louis Viannet of the CGT produced tired cliches which contrasted poorly with an energetic performance from the industry minister, Franck Borotra. Their call yesterday for a second day of demonstrations within a week not only looks unimaginative, but holds the serious risk that fewer people will turn out.

Several other factors are moving in the government's favour. Mr Chirac's firm support of Mr Juppe makes a climb down by the Prime Minister less likely. The alternative transport organised for Paris commuters has started to reduce rush-hour jams, and the FO, which yesterday launched a subscription campaign to help strikers, may be running short of money. The cold weather also helps - by discouraging marchers.

No less crucial is the fact that there is still a key dissenter in the ranks of the unions. Nicole Notat, head of the biggest union, the CFDT, which has links with the Socialist Party, is adamant that Mr Juppe's plans for welfare reform do have some good points. But Ms Notat's strength among her own union activists is questionable; she was booed and forcibly removed from the 24 November demonstration by some of her own militants. A wider public, however, sees her as a forthright woman who talks sense and does not allow herself to be pushed around. Yesterday, in words which may turn out to be prophetic, she told a radio interviewer: "I don't know whether the current protests are going to become quite as big as people say."

The protesters, for their part, have on their side the continuing sympathy of much public opinion, the general dissatisfaction with Mr Chirac and Mr Juppe in particular, and the strength of persisting grievances in individual sectors - like the railways. But if layoffs increase, and as deliveries of fuel, parts and raw materials start to seize up, sympathies could change very quickly.

News
Food blogger and Guardian writer Jack Monroe with her young son
people
News
people
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Life and Style
The racy marketing to entice consumers to buy Fairlife, which launches in the US next month
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital