Scores of police officers have been injured since the citizen-driven “yellow vest” movement was launched in mid-November, most in violent clashes with anti-government protesters. Three unions have denounced working conditions and complained about what they said were strained resources as officers have been sent in to clear roadblocks and restrain violent thugs who have joined street demonstrations to stir chaos and provoke police. The Alliance union announced a “black day for police” as it urged the Macron government to invest in rebooting France’s tired security forces, while calling for a work slowdown on Wednesday to protest against planned cuts in the national police budget.
Alliance is encouraging officers nationwide to stay inside their stations and to only respond to emergency calls.
“Police are not doing well and nobody is listening,” Frédéric Lagache, deputy secretary general of the Alliance union, said. The 2019 budget is “insufficient,” he deplored.
Another union, UNSA-Police, said on Monday its members would only provide minimum services from Tuesday and asked for a meeting with Mr Macron. The union asked the centrist government earlier this month for police working to quell the “yellow vest” protests to be paid overtime.
The UNSA union warned police would stage copycat yellow vest protests and storm roundabouts if its demands were not met.
“The roundabouts are not reserved for yellow vests only,” UNSA said in a statement.
A third union, Unité SGP-FO, said on Monday police are “at the end of their tether” and called on all officers to take part in an “Act 1” of protests on January 26 if the Macron government fails to respond to unions’ demands by January 11.
Mr Lagache’s Alliance union said that French lawmakers are set to vote on 62 million euros (£55.6 million) in budget cuts on Thursday “that will once again result in downgraded work conditions” if approved.
Alliance said lawmakers should vote against the government’s 2019 budget and stressed “that other actions will be implemented” if Mr Macron “does not quickly announce a Marshall Plan for the national police”.
The “yellow vest” protests, named after the fluorescent safety jackets all French motorists must keep in their cars, started last month as a revolt over rising fuel prices and living costs.
But they have since snowballed into broader opposition to Mr Macron’s elitist, out-of-touch attitude and liberal economic policies which are widely seen as favouring the wealthy over the poor.
Scores of police have been injured in the “yellow vest” protests, most in violent clashes with demonstrators and professional thugs, known as “casseurs,” or breakers. They have been using tear gas and water cannons to control the crowds.
France’s Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter he was set to meet union representatives on Tuesday evening following the complaints about strained resources.
“It is in a spirit of dialogue and mutual trust that we will provide concrete answers for our security forces,” Mr Castaner said.