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French unions protest labor reforms

September 21, 2017

French unions have called for new protests to President Macron's proposed labor reforms. Unions and political opponents are turning up pressure on the leader, who is facing major resistance for the first time.

Protesters holding posters calling Macron the lapdog of an employer's group
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C.Paris

French unions called on their members to take to the streets Thursday in renewed protest to labor market reforms proposed by the country's new pro-business president, Emmanuel Macron. The reforms are due to be introduced to the French cabinet on Friday and go into law shortly thereafter.

Read more: Emmanuel Macron labor reforms draw protest in France

Such reforms have proven divisive in the past. The government claims they are needed to improve French competitiveness and bring down its notoriously high unemployment rate, currently at 9.5 percent, but unions fear the changes will weaken worker protections as well as their own role in the political process.

Read more: What are French President Emmanuel Macron's labor reforms

Ruling by decree

The way in which the reforms are being put forward, namely by executive order, has also served to reinforce the impression that Macron is acting in a monarchical fashion. Jean-Luc Melenchon, who leads the far-left opposition party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), labeled the move a "social coup d'etat," and has also called for supporters to protest on Saturday.

Protesters march in Marseilles
Protesters called Macron the lapdog of an employer's groupImage: picture-alliance/dpa/C.Paris

The move, however, may also prove politically shrewd, as it allows Macron to avoid the prolonged street protests that kept his predecessor, Francois Hollande, from passing similar reforms. 

Thursday's nationwide protests are not expected to be as large as those staged by the radical CGT trade union confederation on September 12. Although those protests were large, drawing some 225,000 people, strikes held on the same day had limited impact. Truckers from the CGT and France Ouvriere unions are also scheduled to go on strike Monday.

There is a lot on the line for both the French president and the unions in this battle: Macron needs to get the measures passed if he is to make headway in the area of EU reform, and the unions, which have been steadily losing influence over the last 10 years, are fighting to remain relevant.      

js/sms (AFP,dpa)

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