France: Workers step up protests against new measures

May 22, 2016

Truck drivers blocked major roads across France on May 17 while angry workers and students marched through city streets. Demonstrators were protesting against the longer working hours and reduced overtime payments ordered by President Francois Hollande's government.

The president insists that he would not abandon the austerity cuts that, along with anti-union measures, have sparked mass discontent.

The country is facing a tense week of rolling strikes and other union action against the measures, which have met fierce resistance in parliament and in the streets.

The drivers, fearful of losing a huge €1000 to €1500 from their annual income because of lower overtime payments, blocked roads around Marseille and the western cities of Nantes and Le Mans.

Marseille union leader Laurent Casanova said the goal was “to paralyse traffic … and block the economy”. Hollande declared he would “not back down”, saying the new law is necessary to boost employment and investment.

A crowd of protesters followed him to a pharmaceutical laboratory he was visiting, demanding that the new legislation be abandoned.

There were also large and peaceful protests in Lyon and Nantes organised by trade unions and left-wing parties.

[Abridged from Morning Star.]

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