02:31 GMT +320 November 2019
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    French President Francois Hollande (2ndL), flanked with French Soccer specialist Pierre Louis Basse (L), comment on a photo of Bulgarian soccer player Hristo Stoitchkov.

    Hollande Acts to Avert Euro 2016 Flop as Transport Strike Cripples France

    © REUTERS / Francois Mori
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    French President Francois Hollande has started to make pay offers and ease austerity measures in an attempt to buy off social unrest in the second week of mass protest against his reforms of French labor laws as the whole rail transport system is hit by strikes.

    With just ten days to go before the first match in Euro 2016 — which France is hosting — Hollande has been forced to offer sweeteners to teachers and performing artists, as well as intervene in railway pay negotiations in order to head-off major disruption to the football tournament.

    French rail workers Tuesday night (May 31) began a series of open-ended walkouts as part of ongoing mass strikes across France over controversial reforms to the highly codified French labor laws — known as the Code du travail.

    The labor reforms were largely directed at making companies take on more workers on permanent contracts, rather than temporary ones, to bring down the unemployment rate from ten percent. The proposals would give employers more scope to lay-off workers and cut costs and allow some employees to work far longer than the current 35-hour week.

    Other reforms include a cap on severance pay for workers dismissed by a company. The current uncertain cost of laying-off workers mean that companies are risk-averse to doing so, leaving them less flexible and — in some cases — less productive. Opponents say the reforms would undermine workers' rights on pay, overtime and breaks.

    Dispute Settlements

    Workers at the French railway network SNCF walked out on the evening of May 31 — despite offers by Hollande to intervene in negotiations over the state operator's reorganization —  be followed on June 2 by colleagues on the Paris Metro. 

    A staff member of French state-owned railway company SNCF stands on a platform inside the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris, France, April 26, 2016 during a one-day strike by French railway unions workers to protest working conditions and wages.
    © REUTERS / Jacky Naegelen
    A staff member of French state-owned railway company SNCF stands on a platform inside the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris, France, April 26, 2016 during a one-day strike by French railway unions workers to protest working conditions and wages.

    Meanwhile, Hollande's government has offered school teachers a pay rise, offered to restore slashed funding for research and public money to settle a dispute over performing artists' unemployment insurance.

    ​Hollande is facing deep divisions within his own party and well as continuing mass protests by students and unions after surviving a no-confidence vote over his reforms to the country's labor laws and bypassing parliament to push them through. He invoked a little-used article of the French constitution to enact the reforms, sparking more than eight weeks of mass protests across France.

    Related:

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    Hollande Becomes Most Unpopular President Ever Amid Labor Reform Crisis
    Tags:
    labor market, labor code, strikes, protests, SNCF, General Confederation of Labor (CGT), Metro, Francois Hollande, France
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