Strikes, demonstrations protest labor changes in France

Through 36 measures that are being fast-tracked and will bypass Parliament, Macron is determined to go faster and further than any of his recent predecessors have done to liberalize France’s labor code and attempt to bring down a stubbornly high unemployment rate that continues to hover near 10%.

Strikes were called in over 4,000 workplaces including air traffic control, oil refineries and public services. “Now it’s up to us to rise to the challenge”, Melenchon said as he joined protests in Marseille.

“We need to stop thinking that trade union action only makes sense when we demonstrate”, the head of the CFDT, Laurent Berger, told Franceinfo radio on Tuesday, explaining how he favoured dialogue.

The business-friendly Macron wants to make France a more attractive place for French companies and foreign investors who have long complained about restrictive labour laws and the power of trade unions.

The CGT plans to follow Tuesday’s actions with another protest day on September 21, with another two days later called by far-left firebrand Melenchon.

However, in terms of turnout, the protests were not an obvious success.

Unions in France are walking out in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s labour reforms.

Police put the figure at 24,000.

The CGT union had called for strikes and organised 180 marches against labour decrees unveiled last month by Mr Macron’s government. Heavy rain in Paris didn’t help their cause.

He arrived in the Caribbean on Tuesday to visit the French islands of St. Martin and St. Barthelemy after they were hit by Hurricane Irma last week. Footage of the president in his shirtsleeves greeting local authorities and aid workers competed throughout the day with images from the protests. Similar protests past year led to weeks of violence in the suburbs of Paris and other areas.

“I’ve been working for the past 32 years, I wake up everyday at 5 a.m., I’m no slacker and my work is hard”, Amely said during the demonstration in Paris, where dozens held signs that read “Slackers of all countries, unite!” or chanted “Macron, president of the bosses!” “King Macron, the slackers will kick you out”, read another.

Police used tear gas to contain protesters in Nantes. “This is a real battle, and I think the mobilization is necessary”. “He’s going after people who can’t find jobs, who have no way of finding training or any opportunities”.

“Who is the president referring to when he says he won’t give an inch to slackers?“. He is mocking us …

Another young protester who asked to be identified only as Manu said he had no clear view on the labor reform, and that “some things” needed to change. If university students turn out en masse, Macron may well come to regret his words, despite saying Monday that he took “nothing back”.

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