French hold protest against government-proposed reforms
The French protesters poured onto the streets of several cities across the country Wednesday on a day of nationwide demonstrations against unpopular labor reforms proposed by the administration of President Francois Hollande.
Several unions as well as student organizations called protests in over 200 cities in an attempt to express outrage at the labor bill, which has even divided the Hollande Socialist government.
The proposal maintains the 35-hour workweek, but it allows companies to organize alternative working times without following industry-wide deals, up to a 48-hour workweek and 12 hours per day.
The government-proposed initiative would further relax rules on layoffs. It would permit employees to work more than 35 hours a week without being paid overtime, but in exchange, workers would have more days off later on.
The Wednesday protests were coupled with a rail strike called by the four main unions representing France’s rail workers. The work stoppage has disrupted transportation in the country.
The railway staff demand recruitment of extra employees, pay raise and guarantees on working conditions.
Students are also among those attending the nation-wide protests. Ahead of the demonstrations, several Parisian high schools were blocked by students who set up barricades with garbage cans.
Maryanne Gicquel, a spokeswoman for the FIDL student union, said young people’s move to a stable job is “a succession of internships and poorly paid jobs,” adding, “Now we’re being told that it will be easier for companies to lay off workers.”
The labor bill is expected to be discussed in parliament later on Wednesday. It has been delayed by two weeks amid widespread discontent.
According to a recent survey by pollster Oxoda, 70 percent of French citizens over the age of 18 oppose the proposed reforms. Furthermore, an online petition against the draft law has gathered more than a million signatures so far.