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French police teargas labor law protesters

28 April 2016 20:39



French protesters have once again taken to the streets demanding reversal of controversial planned reforms to the labor law.

Protests were reported on Thursday in the capital Paris and elsewhere across France as parliament prepares to debate the reforms on May 3.

Workers burned tires on roads to halt traffic while Orly airport, France’s second-largest, was ordered to scrap 20 percent of flights. The situation at the larger Charles de Gaulle airport was normal as traffic was almost unaffected by the rallies north of the capital.

Police fired tear gas at protesters in the western city of Nantes where a group of students and rockers reportedly threw stones, paint and smoke bombs at security forces.

One policeman was injured in clashes in Paris where around 100 masked youths clashed with police. Hundreds of strikers, mainly workers, also staged a protest in the northern port of Le Havre where access to routes into the city was blocked by barricades of burning tires.

The action comes as union leaders seek to maintain the momentum of a movement that has triggered large demonstrations in France for four separate days, bringing to a standstill many services in major cities. The unions say the proposed legislation would make it easy for employers to hire and fire.

“We want it withdrawn as long as the goal means the law is no longer the rule, and that every company can opt out on work time or overtime rates. That’s unacceptable,” Philippe Martinez, head of France’s large CGT union, said, adding that the law would give the employers the freedom to short-circuit national regulation of basic worker rights.

Workers are also set to organize the traditional Labor Day rallies on Sunday. Observers have warned that protests this year could trigger a more broad-based movement, even a rolling strike.

The government of President Francois Hollande has tried to water down the text of the law, abandoning some proposed reforms. However, polls show that most French people fear an escalation in protests. That can mainly affect the aviation and public transport sectors as demonstrations as well as work stoppages are planned for coming days.

Hollande and colleagues in the socialist government aim to lower France’s stubborn 10 percent unemployment through the labor bill a year before next presidential elections.

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