Hardline French unions call for strike on March 19

PARIS (Reuters) - Hardline French unions called on Wednesday for a day of strikes and demonstrations on March 19 to protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies.

The strike is the latest union attempt to tap into popular discontent over Macron’s reform drive that has fueled the “yellow vests” (“gilets jaunes”) protest movement.

The CGT, Force Ouvriere, Solidaires unions, and the UNL and UNEF student unions, said in a statement that they would protest in favor of higher wages and pensions and in defense of welfare programs.

The militant CGT, France’s second-biggest union, already organized a day of nationwide demonstrations on Feb. 5, which attracted some support from yellow vest demonstrators.

The loosely organized “yellow vests” protests, named after the fluorescent vests French drivers are required to keep in their cars, started in mid-November over since-scrapped fuel tax hikes, but have since become a broader anti-government movement.

France’s largest union, the centrist CFDT, and several other smaller unions have refused so far to participate in the strike.

Reporting by Caroline Paillez; Writing by Leigh Thomas; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta