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.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home