“FRANCE ISN’T LIBERAL ENGLAND”: FRENCH PROTESTS TARGET MACRON’S LABOUR REFORMS




İrem Uzun –TDO- Emmanuel Macron faces the biggest challenge of his four-month presidency on Tuesday, tens of thousands have taken to the streets of France to protest against his controversial labour reforms. Anger against Mr. Macron was amplified last week when he said in a speech that those who opposed the changes for France were “slackers” or “cynics.”

Around 180 street protests and 4000 strikes have been planned nationwide by French unions against the president’s proposed reforms, which are aimed at reducing unemployment by reducing restrictions on how businesses hire and fire people. 

Mr Macron came to power with a pledge to overhaul France's enormous labour code and lower unemployment to 7% by 2022, down from its current level of 9.5%. Through reforms, Macron’s party aims to provide more flexibility to companies in negotiating wages and conditions directly with employees, and limit damages paid to workers for unfair dismissal. Moreover, it is thought that liberation of France’s jobs market could help to make France more attractive to foreign investors and reduce an unemployment rate of more than 9 per cent. However, the changes would loosen regulations for small companies, make it easier to hire and fire employees, and enable businesses to negotiate certain workplace issues at the company level rather than having to abide by industrywide agreements.  

Philippe Martinez, the leader of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), which is one of the major French unions against the new labour rules, described the new codes as a “declaration of war” that spelt “the end of the work contract”. "The president should listen to the people, understand them, rather than cause divisions," he said.

While the protests occurred in France, Mr Macron was thousands of miles away from the marches visiting hurricane-struck compatriots in the French Caribbean. Therefore, he has not made a mention of the protests yet. In the near future, we will observe whether the President will inflame the fever or compromise over the issue through his speeches.