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France bracing for more protests despite retreat on taxes

Trade unions have not played a role in the improvised movement so far but are now trying to take advantage of growing anger among the public.

Concessions made by French President Emmanuel Macron’s government in a bid to stop huge anti-government demonstrations seemed to have failed to convince protesters, with trade unions and farmers threatening to join the fray.

A day after prime minister Edouard Philippe announced a suspension of planned fuel tax hikes that sparked protests, the burgeoning “yellow vest” protest movement showed no sign of slowing down.

Students opposed to a university application system remained mobilised, trucking unions called for a rolling strike and France’s largest farm union threatened to launch protests next week.

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Students protest at Tobiac university in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

Trade unions have not played a role in the co-ordination of the improvised movement so far but are now trying to take advantage of growing anger among the public.

A joint statement from the CGT and FO trucking unions protesting over a cut to overtime rates called for action from Sunday night and asked for an urgent meeting with transport minister Elisabeth Borne.

Although most of the fuel depots blocked by protesters have been cleared, fuel shortages continued to hit several parts of France on Wednesday, with hundreds of petrol stations affected.

Wearing their signature yellow vests, demonstrators were back at toll booths on Wednesday to express their demands, ranging from income and pension rises to the dissolution of the national assembly.

Meanwhile, high school students’ union FIDL called for a “massive and general mobilisation” on Thursday and urged education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer to step down.

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Emmanuel Macron (Gustavo Garello/AP)

Put on the back foot, Mr Philippe’s government opened the door for more concessions as spokesman Benjamin Griveaux did not exclude bringing back a wealth tax that was slashed soon after Mr Macron came to power in May 2017.

His popularity has slumped to new lows since the first “yellow vest” demonstrations took place on November 17.

The former investment banker, who was elected after campaigning for deep pro-business economic reforms, is accused of being the “president for the rich” and of being estranged from the working classes.

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