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POLITICS

French leader calls factory workers ‘illiterate’

France's whizzkid new economy minister has been begging for forgiveness after referring to women workers at a troubled factory as 'illiterates' just weeks after his boss President François Hollande was accused of calling the poor "toothless".

French leader calls factory workers 'illiterate'
A French minister is in hot water after calling factory workers illiterate. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP
After claims by François Hollande's referred to the poor as "toothless", his government was under fresh attack after the Economy Minister said women workers at a bankrupt abattoir were illiterate.
 
"In this company (Gad) there is a majority of women," Emmanuel Macron told Europe 1 radio. "Many of them are illiterate. Many of them have been told: 'You have no future in Gad or nearby. You need to go and work 50 or 60 kilometres away. These people have no driving licences. What can one say to them?"
 
The 36-year-old former Rothschild banker, appointed just last month, was beset by angry attacks from the left and right.
 
A union leader from Force Ouvrière, Jean Marc Detivelle, said: "It's clear contempt" for workers.
 
While National Assembly member Marc Le Fur, from the centre-right UMP party, called on the prime minister to send "Mr. Macron back to Rothschild." 
 
 
 
Macron was forced to issue a grovelling recantation later on Wednesday, saying: "My humblest apologies go to the workers who I may have hurt with this comment for which I can never apologise enough."
 
According to estimates from the anti-illiteracy group Agence Nationale de Lutte Contre l’Illettrisme, seven percent of the French people read so poorly they are effectively illiterate.  
 
Macron's remark came as part of his first major interview since taking up his job after Hollande sacked his predecessor, the maverick left-wing dissident Arnaud Montebourg.
 
It rapidly generated headlines on all French news sites and made #Macron a top trending term on Twitter, where he was widely mocked.
 
"At least Montebourg pretended to like worker," said tweeter Philippe Vardon.
 
 
The youthful minister made the comment in a clumsy attempt to demonstrate that France needs to overhaul its lengthy system of allocating driving licences, which it is currently trying to reform despite fierce opposition from driving schools.
 
He also said in the interview that France was "sick" and desperately needed pro-business reforms to recover from stagnation and "mass unemployment".
 
Macron's blunder came just weeks after Hollande came under fire for allegedly referring in private to the poor as "toothless". That accusation came in a kiss-and-tell book by France’s ex-first lady Valérie Trierweiler.
 
The claim infuriated the deeply unpopular president, who said in response that his commitment to people on the the lowest levels of society was his "reason for being".
 
But he failed to specifically deny that he had ever used the word "toothless" when speaking of the poor.
 
By : Rory Mulholland

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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