Tens of thousands march in France against Macron’s labor law changes

World Today

Demonstrators take cover after clashing with police during a protest march against President Emmanuel Macron’s new pro-business labor policies in Paris, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Macron’s presidency is facing its first big public test, as unions hold nationwide protests against changes to labor laws that they fear corrode job security. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Labor union protestors took to the streets across France on Tuesday, denouncing President Emmanuel Macron’s new labor reforms.
CGTN’S Mariam Zaidi reports.

Follow Mariam Zaidi on Twitter @zaidi_mariam

A strike organized by one of France’s biggest labor unions, the far left General Confederation of Labour, brought tens of thousands onto the streets of central Paris. It’s the first real show of discontent against President Emmanuel Macron, who took office in May. 

After just four months in office, Macron said he’s offering France the chance to liberate itself from three decades of inefficiency. Executive orders are expected to begin at the end of the month and overhaul the country’s complex labor laws. 

“The country needs transformations and the French know it,” according to French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe. “If they had wanted the previous orientations to continue, they would not have chosen to elect Macron to the presidency.”

Rights for workers are highly guarded in France, making it difficult for businesses to hire and fire.  But under the new reforms, there would be more flexibility in the workplace. Macron believes he can bring down unemployment, which currently sits around 9.5 percent.

Some see the method with which Macron has chosen to push reforms through as efficient.

“The French constitution allows the Parliament to give the government the power to write the texts, and the Parliament then validates,” explains labor lawyer Stéphane Martiano. “This method is extremely rapid and has the advantage of avoiding disputes. We do everything in a few months to avoid union mobilization. And from this point of view, Macron has rather succeeded.”

Young protesters march during a protest called by several French unions against the labour law reform, on September 12, 2017 in Nantes, western France. (AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE)

The stated aim is to bridge the gap between those on permanent and short term contracts, by ending France’s “job for life culture.” Severance packages would be capped, and the power of unions would be limited by allowing companies to directly negotiate working conditions with employees. 

The unions are not happy.

“The popularity of the president is in free fall since the summer. We think that Macron is a right-wing president who makes a policy for business and for the bosses,” the General Confederation of Labour Union France’s Catherine Perret said. “He does not have the majority of French citizens, including his own voters behind him. And we think he has to hear it, otherwise he’ll hear it from the street.”

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