French unions stage protests as anti-worker bill forced through


French unions protested on July 5 as the government forced a bill attacking workers' rights through a hostile parliament.

“This is a counter-productive law, socially and economically,” said Marie-Jose Kotlicki, a member of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT). “The government is making a mistake in underestimating the level of discontent over this law.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls's government was forced to invoke special constitutional powers to pass the bill after MPs from his own Socialist Party (PS) rebelled and voted with the opposition.

“This is sad, compromise was possible,” said Laurent Baumel, one of 30 or more PS MPs who opposed the law. “Valls seems to have refused out of customary intransigence.”

The law will undermine collective bargaining by allowing employers to opt out of industry-wide agreements on some matters. It will also raise the maximum work week from 35 hours to 46.

The government used the same mechanism to pass the bill's earlier reading in May.

Last month, the government tried to ban protests as it passed through the Senate, but was forced to relent.

The CGT, other unions and student groups marched through the streets of Paris against the bill. CGT general secretary Philippe Martinez vowed to keep fighting the undemocratic law.

“Public opinion is unfavourable, the trade unions oppose it and there is no majority in the National Assembly for the vote,” he said.

[Abridged from Morning Star.]

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