France faces day of protests over labour reform, train strike

PARIS - Angry unions and youth joined forces Wednesday in a day of protests against French President Francois Hollande's effort to tamper with the country's 35-hour workweek.

See Full Article

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 labour reform would amend France's 35-hour work week, voted in 2000 by the Socialists and now a cornerstone of the left. The current Socialist government wants adjustments to reduce France's 10 per cent 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.

Ahead of big gathering scheduled on Paris's Place de la Republique on Wednesday afternoon, several Parisian high schools were blocked by students who set up a barricade with garbage cans.

Outside the Helene Boucher high school, students cheered any mention of how the movement would prevent Hollande and the government from passing the bill.

Maryanne Gicquel, a spokesperson for the FIDL student union, described young people's journey to a stable job as "a succession of internships and poorly paid jobs".

"Now we're being told that it will be easier for companies to lay off workers," she said.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls' government insisted that the bill won't be withdrawn but discussions continue with union representatives. The bill, initially set to be discussed at Parliament on Wednesday, has been delayed by two weeks amid growing opposition.

A recent survey by pollster Oxoda found that 70 per cent of French people over the age of 18 opposed the bill. An online petition for its withdrawal has gathered more than 1 million signatures.

Hollande's pro-business policy, a shift from his left-wing campaign in 2012, has caused multiple rebellions among Socialists and the draft law is playing havoc within the ruling party. Martine Aubry - the architect of the 35-hour week - decribed it as "the preparation of a long-lasting weakening of France, and of course the left."

-----

Alex Turnbull and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • In shadow of Mosul fight, Iran establishes Nineveh foothold

    World News CTV News
    BAGHDAD -- While Iraq's conventional military has been slowly clearing the Islamic State group from inside Mosul's complex urban terrain, Iraq's Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary forces have been working their way through less glamorous territory: vast deserts west and south of the city that run along and across Iraq's border with Syria. Source
  • Man faces murder charge after woman's body found near Parry Sound, Ont.

    Canada News CTV News
    CARLING TOWNSHIP, Ont. - Police say a man is facing a murder charge after the body of a 39-year-old woman was found northwest of Parry Sound, Ont. Provincial police say the body of Nancy McGrath was found on Saturday night in a rural area of Carling Township, Ont. Source
  • Pro-life protests banned outside New Brunswick hospital

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    BATHURST, N.B. — As provinces across Canada move to establish protest-free “buffer zones” around abortion providers, a judge has banned anti-abortion activists from demonstrating outside a hospital in northern New Brunswick. Court of Queen’s Bench Judge Reginald Leger granted a permanent injunction against protesters outside the Chaleur Regional Hospital in Bathurst. Source
  • Wind, storms leave 11 dead and 70 hurt in Moscow

    World News CTV News
    MOSCOW -- Thunderstorms and strong winds buffeted Moscow and its surrounding areas on Monday, killing 11 people and injuring dozens, Russian officials said. Most of the fatalities were caused by falling trees. Another 70 people were injured, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said. Source
  • Zookeeper killed in 'freak accident' involving a tiger at UK zoo

    World News Toronto Sun
    LONDON — Police said a tiger killed a female zookeeper Monday at a zoo 130 kilometres (80 miles) north of London. “A tiger had entered an enclosure with a keeper. Sadly the female zookeeper died at the scene,” Cambridgeshire Police said in a statement. Source
  • Opponents grill Ont. Liberals over $200,000 rubber duck

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - An Ontario government grant of about $120,000 that is going toward a giant rubber duck for Canada 150 celebrations is ruffling some feathers. The 18.6 metre, 13,600-kilogram yellow duck is being brought to Toronto by the Redpath Waterfront Festival, reportedly at a total cost of $200,000, combining other funding. Source
  • Late sponsorship of Takuma Sato pays off for mortgage broker with Indy 500 win

    World News CBC News
    When Takuma Sato took home the checkered flag at the Indy 500 on Sunday, the Japanese race car driver wasn't the only big winner. One of the main sponsors of his car, Indiana-based lender Ruoff Home Mortgage, only decided to put financial support behind Sato's Andretti Racing Team early last week. Source
  • Female teacher filmed raunchy hijinks with teen: Cops

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Mississippi teacher was so turned on by her teen lover she allegedly filmed the hormone-charged hijinks. Cops say biology teacher Amber Turnage, 39, was the alleged star of homemade sex movies that leaked online that showed her having intercourse and oral sex with the boy, 17. Source
  • Tiger kills zookeeper in eastern England

    World News CBC News
    Police in southeastern England say a zookeeper has been killed in an incident involving a tiger. Cambridgeshire Police are not releasing other details about the incident Monday at Hamerton Zoo, which is 130 kilometres north of London. Source
  • Okanagan Lake flooding concerns on the rise

    Canada News CTV News
    KELOWNA, B.C. -- The water level for B.C.'s Okanagan Lake has crept up another 1.7 centimetres since Sunday, adding to flooding concerns across the Central Okanagan Regional District. Environment Canada reports Okanagan Lake has reached 343.08 metres, eight centimetres above historic flood levels dating back to 1948. Source