Dozens Arrested, Tear Gas Deployed As French Labor Reform Protests Turn Violent

Dozens Arrested, Tear Gas Deployed As French Labor Reform Protests Turn Violent

Tyler Durden’s pictureSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/31/2016
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-03-31/dozens-arrested-tear-gas-deployed-french-labor-reform-protests-turn-violent

In a stark reminder of the entrenched problems facing the French economy, today police used tear gas to disperse thousands of angry activists across the nation, who are protesting new labor reforms. French rail and air traffic suffered serious disruption on Thursday after transport staff stopped work and took to the streets along with high-school students to challenge plans for a pro-business loosening of the country’s protective labor laws.

In Paris the protest started in Place de la Nation, the same place where previous anti-labor rallies took place. The demonstrators threw bottles with flammable liquid and stones at police officers.  Video footage relayed on social media showed some hooded youths jumping on cars and taunting police. CGT chief Martinez played down reports of a dozen arrests, saying there was often a bit of trouble caused by “some people who have nothing to do with the issue”.

 

“Everyone hates the police,” the protesters were
shouting. At least two protesters have been beaten by police officers in
the city of Lille, according to photo reporter Julien Pitinome, who tweeted a picture of the incident.

 

In the city of Nantes demonstrators tried to storm the town hall and smash windows.

 

According to Reuters, the day of protest, the fourth in a month, “has been billed by local media as a make-or-break test of strength for President Francois Hollande, plagued by low popularity and a jobless rate stuck stubbornly above 10 percent as mid-2017 elections loom” and where anti-Euro frontrunner Marine Le Pen looms large. 

What is notable about today’s protest is that among the most vocal protesters were secondary-level school pupils who were mobilized in Paris and dozens of other cities for protest marches alongside those called by labor unions.

At issue is a proposed overhaul of France’s labor code, a set of regulations bosses claim deters recruitment. Critics say the reforms will lead to worse working conditions and more sackings. The reforms, due to be debated in parliament next week, would give employers more flexibility to agree in-house deals with employees on working time.

Students are rallying against labor law reforms recently proposed by Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri. The French authorities are desperately trying to battle high unemployment in the country, and have suggested cutting overtime pay for work beyond 35 hours.

In the proposed reforms, employers would pay only 10% of overtime bonus, instead of the current 25%.

According to RT, the protests were partially organized by a Facebook community called ‘Loi travail: non, merci’ (Labor reform: No, thanks). Arguing that the reforms concern all French citizens, the group has started a petition, which has so far been signed by over one million people.

Hollande has said the reforms would help employees have more job stability. “We must also give companies the opportunity to recruit more, to give job security to young people throughout their lives, and to provide flexibility for companies,” he said.

More than 260 protests are taking place in France, the Local reported.

The protests come a day after Hollande, who has said he will not run for re-election if he fails to make a dent in the jobless rate, abandoned another piece of legislation – plans to strip convicted terrorists of French citizenship. That climbdown was forced on him by other lawmakers, many of them in his own camp. “When you admit you got it wrong once, it’s possible to say you got it wrong twice … we’re optimistic. The government needs to say it got it wrong,” said Philippe Martinez, head of the large CGT union.

Hollande’s government, desperate to deliver on his so far elusive commitment to reduce high unemployment, watered down its reform proposal shortly before it was unveiled this month by ditching a clause that would have capped severance pay awards.

Economists fault the French system for creating a divide between people with open-ended work contracts and first-timers condemned to move from one short-term job to another because of employer reluctance to commit to long-term contracts.

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