19:12 GMT +318 November 2019
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    Security forces clash with demonstrators during a protest called by seven labour unions and students against the labour and employment law reform on May 26, 2016 in Bordeaux, southwest France

    Support for French Strikes, Protests Against Labor Reforms Collapsing

    © AFP 2019 / Georges Gobet
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    The bitter stand-off between the major French unions and the government, which has seen months of street protests and strikes looks set to be abating, with declining public support and a lower than expected turnout to the latest protest rally in Paris.

    In a dramatic headline, French newspaper Le Figaro summed it all up: "Strikes, Demonstrations: is this the end?" On June 14, the ninth day of national protests against controversial reforms to the heavily codified French labor laws, the Paris prefecture said between 75,000 and 80,000 people turned out, with the unions claiming one million according to the unions.

    Across the country, 1.3 million people hit the streets, according to the unions, but the figure was closer to 125,000, according to authorities. 

    Opinion polls show that, while four out of five, disagree with the labor reforms, there is dwindling support for the industrial action — particularly with the eyes of the world on France, which is hosting the current Euro 2016 football tournament.

    35-Hour Week Impasse

    The protests are against reforms to the highly codified French labor laws — known as the Code du travail — in order to give employers more flexibility. 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.

    ​The reforms were pushed through by French President Francois Hollande, who invoked a little used piece of the constitution — Article 49.3 — to bypass the upper house — the Senate — which is dominated by Republicans, who are against the reforms.

    Now the Senate is set to debate the provisions of the labor reforms — challenging the proposed working time provisions — and put it to a vote, causing another constitutional crisis.

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    Tags:
    protest violence, labor code, strikes, unions, students, protest, demonstrations, SNCF, Le Figaro, General Confederation of Labor (CGT), Air France, Manuel Valls, Francois Hollande, Marseille, Paris, France
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