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Thousands take to the streets against Macron labour laws

Tuesday, September 12, 2017
dpa


PARIS - Thousands took to the streets in France on Tuesday as the hardline CGT union called protests against President Emmanuel Macron's moves to make the country's labour laws more flexible.

Suburban trains in Paris were disrupted but most other transport services operated normally, with the other two main union groups largely shunning the CGT's call for a one-day strike.

Traffic in the capital was also hit by go-slow truck convoys organized by fairground operators in protest at separate measures requiring towns to put the organization of fairs out to tender.

The reforms to the labour code are a flagship policy for Macron, who says businesses need more flexibility in order to create jobs.

The president, elected in May, is determined to tackle an unemployment rate that has drifted between 9 and 10.5 per cent since 2010.

Despite the limited turnout, Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the hard-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party said he was confident Macron could be "made to pull back."

"Mr Macron knows that this is a trial of strength and he looked for it. Now it's up to us to rise to the challenge," Melenchon said as he joined protests in Marseille.

The detailed decrees revealed by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on August 31 allow a greater range of working conditions to be agreed at company level rather than sector-wide.

They also allow the smallest companies to negotiate directly with staff or their chosen representatives, rather than with unions.

"It's not a labour law, but a law which gives full power to employers," CGT chief Philippe Martinez charged in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien on Sunday.

The decrees are due to be adopted by the government on September 22.

The protests were taking place as Macron travelled to the French Caribbean to visit the islands of Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, devastated last week by Hurricane Irma.

A day ahead of the protests, the president doubled down on controversial comments on Friday describing opponents of the reform as "idlers."

The phrase referred to "all those who think that we can do nothing, that we have that luxury," he told reporters.

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