• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
French protest to show their anger against labour reforms
France set for street protests on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

French protest to show their anger against labour reforms

AFP · 9 Mar 2016, 15:24

Published: 09 Mar 2016 15:24 GMT+01:00

Thousands of French high school students and workers protested against labour reforms Wednesday, heaping pressure on President Francois Hollande's already unpopular and fractured Socialist government with presidential elections looming in 14 months.

Teenagers and students threw eggs and firecrackers as they marched in Paris chanting slogans such as "El Khomri, you're beat, the youth are in the street" in reference to Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri.



The youth are among the most vocal demonstrators against reforms they fear will make their future more uncertain, even as the government vows that the changes are in their favour.

Dozens of schools were blocked as protests took place around the country, compounded by a rail strike for better working conditions that left many commuters stranded.

France's government has faced massive pushback - including from within its ranks - over the proposals that would give bosses more flexibility in hiring and firing.

"This law is absurd: night work, abusive firings... it is distressing to see this, especially from the Socialists," said Lucie Ferreira, 21, an IT student.



The reforms aim to bring down a record 10.2-percent unemployment rate, with youth joblessness more than twice that. The proposed new law also cuts overtime pay for work beyond 35 hours - the working week famously introduced in the 1990s in an earlier Socialist bid to boost employment. In some sectors, young apprentices could work 40 hours a week.

"Like many students I work to pay for my studies. This law will prevent me from limiting my work hours," said Flora, 20, a history student protesting at the Place de la Republique in Paris. "When will I have time to study? This law is completely irrational. In reality, nobody really works 35 hours a week anymore, it is 40 or more to make a living. How much will it end up being with this law?"

An online petition against the draft law has attracted more than a million signatures, while a poll showed seven in 10 people were opposed to the planned changes.



Hollande, who campaigned on a promise to improve prospects for young people, said on the eve of the protests that he wanted to help them "have more job stability", adding: "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."

Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday kicked off three days of talks with unions in a bid to salvage the law, after the chorus of opposition derailed a plan to submit the proposals to the cabinet this week.

The turmoil created by the proposals has struck yet another blow to Hollande and Valls, who have come under attack from leading members of the Socialist party for being too pro-business and shifting to the right. Whether over economic reforms or plans to strip convicted terrorists of their nationality, the government has faced howls of protest from the left flank of the party at almost every turn.

'Don't be afraid of change'

Those backing the reforms believe they are essential to reviving a stagnant economy, creating jobs and remaining competitive, and El Khomri has argued that much of the opposition to her law is the result of misinformation and false rumours.



Outspoken Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron told French radio on Tuesday that unemployment had not dropped below seven percent in 30 years. "Have we tried everything? Let us look outside France. What has happened elsewhere? They have all evolved, they have all done things," he said.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose country has adopted similar reforms - as have Spain and Britain - said on Tuesday after talks in Venice with Hollande that the French "should not be afraid of change."

French employers are reluctant to take on permanent workers because of obstacles to laying them off in lean times. Young people leaving university find themselves working temporary contracts for years at a time or doing internship after internship while hoping to secure a job.

Story continues below…



Along with tweaks to working hours, the reforms identify precise conditions such as falling orders or sales, or operating losses, as sufficient cause for shedding staff. However those protesting do not believe the proposed reforms will improve their prospects.

"Young? Yes, Stupid? Maybe. Slaves? Never" read one poster in Rennes where local government officials said some 4,500 protested. In Toulouse police estimated a crowd of 10,000.

 

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Labour law protests
Paris: 2,500 police on alert for new labour law protest
Police carry out bag checks at Thursday's protest. Photo: AFP

Paris is on high alert on Tuesday as the city is set to play host to the 11th demonstration against new labour reform bill, which will be voted on by the Senate on the same day.

French police lifeguards get guns for summer beach patrol
Photo: AFP

Keep an eye out for life guards with guns on beaches in France this summer.

What will change in France from July 2016
Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

July will see some changes in France, and here's how you'll be affected.

France tells UK to hurry up and get on with EU divorce
Photo: AFP

"Don't waste any time," France tells UK. "We don't want anymore uncertainty."

French police hold ten after raids on luxury Paris stores
Photo: AFP

Have French police solved a series of armed raids of luxury boutiques?

New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Photo: ByeBye Crottoir

No need to watch your step anymore, says this French engineer behind a new app called "Bye Bye Pavement Dog Poo"

Calls in France for English to be ditched as EU language
Photo: AFP

Some in France suggest it's time to end the dominance of English as the EU's working language, now that the UK has voted to leave the union.

Seven tips for selling your house in France
Photo: AFP

After the Brexit referendum there is already talk of British expats in France considering selling up. Here are seven tips put together by an expert.

British businesses in France told to keep calm and carry on
Brits celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday at the British embassy in Paris. Photo: UK in France/Flickr

Brits running their own businesses have been told that despite the Brexit vote, it should be "business as usual".

Paris thieves pilfer luxury watches worth €3 million
Photo: AFP

Another multi-million robbery in the chic heart of Paris.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
International
French police appear unprepared for hooligan threat at Euro 2016
Sport
An A to Z guide of what to expect in France for Euro 2016
2,730
jobs available