France’s months-long anti-government demonstrations stem from failed labor negotiations between the Ministry of Labor and Secretary General of the CGT union Philippe Martinez. Martinez is adamant that some key articles of the labor reform bill being deliberated by the government should be abolished or amended.
The planned June 23 demonstrations will continue the wave of strikes which began in France in March to protest the labor reform bill that labor unions describe as favoring the employers and hurting the fundamental rights of laborers.
The bill allows companies to dismiss workers more easily and ignore the 35 hour-work week if agreed by both the employers and the employees. The bill’s intent is to create favorable conditions for hiring and reduce the unemployment rate, currently at 10%, higher than in Germany and the Nordic countries.
Protestors say the bill strongly favors employers and restricts workers’ fundamental rights and interests, marking a step backward in social progress.
Demonstrations and strikes have paralyzed transportation and wreaked economic consequences. The climax was the “Nuit Debout” (Rise up at Night) event on May 26 involving 300,000 protesters according tohe police. The CGT union said the figure was 500,000.
At the end of May, strikes at oil refineries led to a fuel crisis in France, forcing the government to mobilize its strategic reserves for the first time in 6 years. Protesters blocked roads and bridges and merchant marine and aviation personnel have begun demonstrations.
Tensions escalated between the government and the CGT, one the 2 largest unions in France, when demonstrations turned violent last week in Paris. These developments are affecting foreign investment and tourism so badly that President Francois Hollande has warned of a ban on demonstrations for national security. But the CGT said it plans another strike on June 28.