The Strategist

The French Lifted Their Voices Against Newly Proposed Labor Laws

04/01/2016 - 16:10

Yesterday, French citizens held mass protests against changes in labor laws that provide simplification of the workers’ dismissal procedure and possibility of extending the standard 35-hour work week. Several hundred thousand people came out to the streets of French cities, and more than 100 people were detained after clashes with the police.
On Thursday, hundreds of thousands of French people took to the streets as part of protests against reforms of the country's labor laws proposed by government. Among the marchers were both French workers and students. The protests took place in different cities of France. According to the organizers, there were 1.2 million people, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs is reporting 400 thousand of them. In Nantes and Rennes, police used tear gas against protesters, who threw stones at the policemen. More than 100 people were detained in Paris, Toulouse and other cities. The processions led to a 400-kilometer-long traffic jams around Paris. According to the police’s estimates, 28 thousand people took part in the protests in Paris. A fifth of flights at Charles de Gaulle airport was canceled in connection with the strike; the cancellation also affected the state railway company SNCF.   

French authorities want to simplify the procedure of employees’ dismissal, as well as change the rule of the 35-hour working week: small and medium-sized companies will be able to introduce flexible schedule. In general terms, the bill states that the 35-hour working week schedule will still be available, yet companies will be able to introduce a 48-hour week, a 12-hour day, and even 60-hour work week "in exceptional circumstances". The French Government states that these reforms should contribute to the economy’s growth since they would encourage employers to hire larger number of employees. According to the authorities and business, the reform should reduce the unemployment rate, which now stands at about 10%. Earlier, French President Francois Hollande said that he would not run for another term if he fails to reduce unemployment. Next presidential elections will be held in France in April next year. 

Many of the protesters were particular outraged by the fact that such program of reforms was proposed by the Socialists Government. The protesters marched under the banners "We want better" and "This is a pullback in the XIX century." This is the fourth such protest last month. Among the organizers are seven student organizations and trade unions. The vote on the reform of labor legislation should take place in Parliament in April or early May. According to surveys, 58% of the French are against the adoption of this law.