A nationwide strike has kicked off in France, with public sector workers demanding better pay and working conditions and condemning sloppy government support amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The strike began across France on Thursday after being called by the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), one of the nation’s largest unions. Other trade unions joined in – including the Federation Syndicale Unitaire and Solidaires – as well as student groups and youth organizations.

Thousands of workers took to the streets of Paris and marched through the city center. Protesters carried a large banner reading “Jobs, salaries, working time, pensions … let’s revive the social”, video footage from the scene shows.

The protesters urged the French government to allocate more funds to education and public services as part of the nation’s Covid-19 recovery plan. Their demands also addressed unemployment rates that surged amid the pandemic, with the unions urging the government to abstain from further job cuts.

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Police closely monitored the protests and while some protesters lit flares and other pyrotechnics during the demonstrations, there were no immediate reports of any major incidents or scuffles with police.

Smaller rallies were held across other French cities as well. In Toulouse, hundreds of protesters marched through the city’s streets carrying banners demanding better salaries and condemning economic instability.

Things got more heated in the northwest city of Rennes, where police tried to disperse marchers with tear gas, local media reported.

Police also turned a high-pressure water cannon on the demonstrators, footage circulating online shows.

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