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Will France Keep Burning? Anger Rages in the Streets Over Labor Reform

© REUTERS / Philippe WojazerFrench President Francois Hollande attends a joint declaration with Benin's President Patrice Talon at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 26, 2016.
French President Francois Hollande attends a joint declaration with Benin's President Patrice Talon at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 26, 2016. - Sputnik International
French workers have been striking all week in protest of new labor laws. Will President Hollande capitulate to protesters or will the fuel-parched country come to a standstill? Radio Sputnik spoke with Steve Hedley, the assistant general secretary of the RMT Union in Britain, who was in the streets of France last week with striking workers.

Loud & Clear Host Brian Becker highlighted that President Hollande, outside the scope of his parliamentary power, is attempting to impose the French Labor Reform Bill, which increases the work week from 35 hours to 46, empowers companies to reduce pay, lay off workers and jeopardize holidays and special leave. 

French President Francois Hollande (2ndL), flanked with French Soccer specialist Pierre Louis Basse (L), comment on a photo of Bulgarian soccer player Hristo Stoitchkov. - Sputnik International
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"The problem with France isn’t that people work too long or work too little for the week," Hedley responded, "It’s that they’re tied to Germany’s fiscal policy, which prevents France from lowering its interest rates and, in turn, devaluing its currency. All these things mean that, when it’s tied to a far bigger and more powerful German economy, that the French economy comes up second best." 

​Hedley added that government officials have tried to intervene, but French workers are disenchanted with a ruling party that they believe isn't living up to its progressive title. "The Minister of Labor and Francois Hollande got involved and said there might be some concessions, but really the workers aren’t interested in concessions. The Socialist Party is socialist in name only, they’ve got no socialist policies whatsoever, and if you talk to the French workers, they’ll say that they’re even worse than the Sarkozy government, which was a right-wing government."

Becker asked Hedley if he thought the French government would be successful in quashing resistance, observing that "France is starting to endure real fuel shortages but without workers things don’t move." 

A man holds a French flag with the message, No to the El Khomri law in front of a line of French riot police during a protest against the French labour law proposal during the May Day labour union march in Paris, France, May 1, 2016. - Sputnik International
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"I don’t think they’re going to succeed." Hedley declared, "I’ve been to France quite a few times and I’ve never seen this level of passions and determination amongst the workforce….What you’ve got on one hand is the workforce, the unions, showing a high degree of determination, and already you’ve got splits in the so-called socialist government between former ministers and those currently in power."

Hedley feels that at the root of the French labor reform bill, the strikes and general dissatisfaction amongst workers in France and other countries is systemic, deeper than simple poor policy and bad government. 

Striking French labour union employees stand near a barricade to block the entrance of the depot of the SFDM company near the oil refinery to protest the labour reforms law propal, in Donges, France, May 26, 2016. - Sputnik International
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"I think that what’s happening here is the same as in America.” He explained,” There’s a smaller and smaller percentage of the capitalist class appropriating more and more wealth for itself and the inequalities are becoming ever more stark. Not just in America, but across Europe. And people for the first time in a long time are openly questioning the system, they’re saying that capitalism isn’t working for the vast majority of people. And they’re looking a radical, more socialist approach."

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