France labour dispute: Paris protests descend into violence

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Protesters are angry about proposed changes to labor laws

Protests in Paris over a French labor reform bill have turned violent, with at least 40 people injured, including 29 police officers, and 58 arrests.

At least 75,000 demonstrators had convened in the capital as the upper house of parliament debated changes to employment laws.

One of the city’s best-known attractions, the Eiffel Tower, was closed due to strike action by staff.

The labor reform makes it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.
It would also relax the limit on working hours. The bill has been approved by the National Assembly (lower house) and is now going through the Senate.

Police said the clashes in Paris involved “several hundred masked people”, who threw chunks of paving, set bins ablaze and smashed some shop windows. Police responded with tear gas and water cannon.

 

French labor reform bill – key points:

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average.
    Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, which is strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers to get more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated
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