France faces day of protests over labor reform, train strike
PARIS - The Associated Press
People demonstrate on March 9, 2016 in Rennes, western France, against the government's planned labor reforms. AFP PhotoAngry unions and youths joined forces on March 9 in a day of protests against French President Francois Hollande’s effort to tamper with the country’s 35-hour workweek.
Several union and student organizations called protests in more than 200 cities across France to try to kill the bill which has even divided Hollande’s Socialists.
The protests fall on the same day as rail strikes that are delaying some suburban and long-distance trains - but not local transport.
The contested labor reform would amend France’s 35-hour workweek, voted in 2000 by the Socialists and now a cornerstone of the left. The current Socialist government wants adjustments to reduce France’s 10 percent unemployment rate as the shortened workweek was meant to do.
The proposal technically maintains the 35-hour workweek, but allows companies to organize alternative working times without following industry-wide deals, up to a 48-hour workweek and 12 hours per day. In “exceptional circumstances,” employees could work up to 60 hours a week.
To allow companies to deal with business booms, one measure would allow employees to work more than 35 hours without being paid overtime. In exchange, they would have more days off later on. Other measures would relax rules on layoffs and working from home and at night.
The proposals have turned all major employee unions and youth organizations against the government. With next year’s presidential election looming and the Hollande’s popularity having reached its nadir, legislation to make it easier for companies to end employment deals is fueling discontent in a country badly hit by the economic downturn.