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"We have been asking for the same thing for several weeks - that the government completely reconsiders its plan", Philippe Martinez, head of one of France's biggest unions, the CGT, told France Inter radio.

A quarter of Air France flights will be grounded Tuesday by a separate strike over pay.

A major strike by workers at the French state railway SNCF - including train drivers - is expected to paralyse rail travel across France.

France said on March 30 it is not planning a unilateral military operation in Syria outside the worldwide coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after senior Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) officials claimed Paris was planning to send troops. "They want a long movement but I am ready for dialogue", she said. One in every three trains to Germany was to operate, while the Eurostar service connecting London, Paris and Brussels was down to three out of every four trains, the SNCF said.

An aide said: "We missed all the big technological revolutions of recent years, but France has a card to play in the field of artificial intelligence".

The flag carrier's unions have also called for action this Saturday - and plan further walkouts on April 10 and 11 over demands for a 6% wage increase that management has rejected.

Macron says the SNCF, saddled with 46.6 billion euros ($57.5 billion) of debt, needs to make major changes as European Union countries prepare to open passenger rail to competition by 2020.

Rail operator SNCF staff walked off the job at 1700 GMT on Monday night, promising headaches for France's 4.5 million train passengers. Either way, Macron is alive to the downsides of automation, saying "my role is not to block this change, but to be able to train or retrain people for them to get opportunities in this new world".

Unions say the centrist ex-investment banker intends to "destroy the public railways through pure ideological dogmatism".

Last year, Macron's government announced plans to liberalise the economy, starting with employment reform - an area that left his predecessors scarred.

France is braced for the start of three months of rolling rail strikes, the first in a series of walkouts affecting services from energy to refuse collection as Emmanuel Macron's reform agenda comes up against resistance.

"We are for a national rail company".

"The government will stand firm", Borne said.


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