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Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
French teachers strike over jobs
File picture of French teachers demonstration in Paris
Marches are taking place throughout the country

Teachers across France are on strike in protest at planned job cuts in education.

About 100 marches will be held in Paris and in major cities across the country, forcing many schools to close down for the day.

Demonstrators in Montpellier hold a portrait of French Eucation Minister Luc Ferry
Teachers say the new government has forgotten education
It is the second major strike to hit France since President Jacques Chirac's centre-right party came to power in June, prompting fears that the government may be facing a repeat of the mass strikes which crippled France in 1995.

Three weeks ago it was the turn of utility workers; now it is the teachers who are walking out. They claim the new government has forgotten education.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has abandoned many of the staff increases and new posts that the previous left-wing coalition had promised.

Instead, the new administration has decided to axe the jobs of more than 5,500 classroom assistants and up to 20,000 support staff.

Cost-cutting fears

Teachers are also suspicious of Mr Raffarin's plans to decentralise France.

They fear that if regional authorities take on more responsibility for education, it will be an easy excuse for further cost-cutting measures.

The strike may only be for one day, but the government will find it hard to ignore.

France has been virtually shut down by strikes in its not-so-distant past and the teaching unions are warning that this strike will be the first of many.

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The BBC's Paris correspondent Jon Sopel
"Regions will be given enough money to make them autonomous"
See also:

07 Sep 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
23 Jan 02 | Europe
03 Jan 02 | Europe
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