Clashes as students march against labour reforms

Thousands of students took to the streets of France to protest planned labour reforms they say will deny them the job stability enjoyed by previous generations
Thousands of students took to the streets of France to protest planned labour reforms they say will deny them the job stability enjoyed by previous generations

French high school and university students attend a demonstration against the French labour law proposal in Paris

But as marchers denounced pro-business moves to loosen protective French employment legislation, things took a violent turn in Paris and other cities.

Arrests and injuries were reported in clashes with security forces on a day billed by the media as a make-or-break test of strength for Socialist President Francois Hollande, plagued by low popularity and a jobless rate stuck above 10 percent.

For commuters it was a black Thursday with huge traffic jams at rush-hour. Taking the car was the only way into work for many as industrial action on public transport — in protest at the labour reforms — caused major disruption. For those lucky enough to find a train running in Paris, it was anything but a comfortable ride.

France’s SNCF state railway company said stoppages among its staff had cut some services by 40 to 50 percent. About one in five flights were cancelled at Orly airport south of Paris.

And things were not much better for tourists in the French capital. Under rainy skies, they were confronted with the closure of the Eiffel Tower, as ticket kiosk staff and others joined the strike. The reforms would give employers more flexibility to agree in-house deals with employees on working time.

The protests come a day after Hollande, who has said he will not run for re-election if he fails to make a dent in the jobless rate, abandoned another piece of legislation — plans to strip convicted terrorists of French citizenship. That climbdown was forced on him by other lawmakers, many of them in his own camp. The hardline CGT union said the protests would continue until the reforms are completely withdrawn. Critics say the draft reforms would lead to worse working conditions and more sackings.
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