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French labor strike back on after unions meet with government

Hours after a demonstration in Paris was canceled due to safety concerns, labor unions have said it is back on. The unions reached an agreement with the government on a new route for the demonstration.

Just hours after French police said on Wednesday they "had no choice" but to cancel a labor demonstration scheduled for Thursday, unions emerged from a meeting with government officials to say the march was back on.

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Philippe Martinez, from one of France's largest unions, the CGT, told a press conference that "after tough talks with the interior minister, the [unions and student organizations staging the march] had obtained the right to demonstrate on a route proposed by the Interior Ministry."

Earlier this week, the French government had called for a stationary demo in place of a march. Initially on Wednesday, French police said they would be unable to ensure the protest's security if it went forward as planned.

Speaking on France's iTELE television station before it was announced that the demonstration was back on, lawmaker Christian Paul called the move a "historic mistake" and said it was the first time since 1958 that the "government – a prime minister" banned a demonstration by large trade unions.

Paul is in the same socialist PS party as President Francois Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls and leads a group of parliamentarians in the party against the government's planned labor reforms, which affect companies' ability to hire and fire workers as well as the length of the work week.

Earlier in June, as France was preparing to launch the still-running European Championship soccer tournament, a series of strikes left garbage piling up in the streets and transportation systems running with significant delays as thousands of fans came to France for the tournament. A labor demonstration last week turned violent, leading to 40 people injured and dozens of arrests.

After a children's hospital in Paris was damaged by a small group of violent protesters at last week's demonstration, a spokesperson for French President Francois Hollande said "at a time when France is hosting the Euro (football tournament), when it is faced with terrorism, demonstrations can no longer be authorized if property and people and public property cannot be safeguarded."

Although the trouble was caused by a few of the otherwise peaceful demonstrators, police estimated there were 80,000 people at the protest in the capital.

mz/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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