Thousands protest labor reforms

Labor Reform

As promised, trade unionists took to the streets to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s proposed labor reforms.

According to France 24, the protestors chanted and carried signs referencing a remark about “slackers” that Macron made to a group in Athens.

According to Parisian authorities, approximately 24,000 people attended the protest in the capital. A similar protest in March 2016 drew 28,000.

While the protest was largely peaceful, the police had to confront groups of hooded young people who were on the periphery of the marches.

This protest was organized by the CGT trade union, which is connected to the Communist Party. It is one of the largest trade unions in the country. However, France’s largest union, the CDFT, did not join the CGT in Tuesday’s action.

Some of the measures under protest give French companies more leeway in hiring and firing decisions. Another proposal would cap the amount of money someone could receive for an unfair dismissal.

The CGT and its allies on the left, including MP Jean-Luc Mélenchon, did not appear too dismayed by the lack of unity among the French unions. CGT leader Philippe Martinez criticized Macron’s “slackers” comment and promised further action to come.

Mélenchon said, “We will make Macron back down.”

Although 11 percent of the employees at EDF participated in the strike, a spokesperson for the utility said there had been no impact on Tuesday’s production.

While workers were protesting on the streets in Paris and Marseille, Macron was in the French Caribbean to begin assessing the damage from Hurricane Irma.

While the vigorous, worker-friendly labor code is a point of pride for many French people, critics say it creates unnecessary obstacles to economic growth and innovation.

France has had 9 percent unemployment for almost ten years.

There have been many attempts to reform the labor code, but most of them have been neutered in the wake of massive protests. Macron himself was a part of the Francois Hollande government that was forced to back away from reforms after protests that saw, at times, 400,000 people in the streets.

However, Macron has the advantage of division among the unions. The French economy has also been slowly improving, which may make protest less likely.

The new measures are set to go into effect on September 22.

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