Labor Protest Draws Thousands In Paris

Category: Politics / Mar 05, 2013 11:51AM EDT
Thousands of demonstrators answered the call of French unions and took the streets of Paris on Tuesday (March 5) to protests against labor law reforms. Two left-wing French trade unions began nation-wide protests against the changes backed by mainstream unions to give firms more flexibility to weather economic downturns. The organizers, the hardline CGT and FO, have called for rallies in 200 cities across France, as well as a large march in Paris towards the French Parliament which is set to pass a law based on the proposals next month. The turnout will be seen as a barometer of opposition to a reform vital to Socialist President Francois Hollande's battle to restore industrial competitiveness. Signed by mainstream unions in January after lengthy talks with employers, the "flexicurity" accord means more job security for workers on short-term contracts, but makes it easier for firms to put staff on shorter hours if orders dry up. Companies will also gain new rights to dismiss any who refuse to participate. The changes will also seek more flexibility from workers asked to relocate to match fluctuations in demand. Opposition to a deal that Hollande hopes will stem a rash of industrial layoffs and ease double-digit unemployment has become a common cause for two unions who are traditionally foes. Speaking at the Paris march, FO union leader Jean-Claude Mailly said the changes posed a threat for employees. "If you're told that to relieve unemployment problems you have to be laid off, and then tomorrow you can be hired again, that's what I call a trick. The problem in France is not a flexibility problem, we are facing an economic policy problem. As elsewhere, it's not a problem of flexibility, we know that we already have flexibility," he said. Elsewhere even public sector employees remained sure the bill threatened their livelihoods. "Even in the public sector, today, there is insecurity. It does exist and it's very hard to lower it despite the laws passed to do that. Things can't continue like this, we are in the process of destroying industry, and the public sector will follow so we all have a place here," Nanterre city council worker Pascaline Manesco said. The bill, which Hollande wants to be enacted in May, will be presented at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Video Source: Reuters