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Sunday 11 December 2016

Labour reform protests continue in France

Published 17/05/2016 | 13:31

Truck drivers block the road near Fos-sur-Mer in southern France (AP)
Truck drivers block the road near Fos-sur-Mer in southern France (AP)

Truckers are blocking motorways while workers march through city streets in protest against longer working hours in France.

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But French President Francois Hollande is insisting he will not abandon labour reforms that have been met with fierce resistance in parliament as well as on the streets.

Truck drivers joined in protests on Tuesday, blocking roads around Marseille and the western cities of Nantes and Le Mans. They fear a drop in income because the reform bill cuts overtime pay.

Marseille union leader Laurent Casanova said the goal "is to paralyse traffic ... and block the economy". Truck driver John Bosco in Vitrolles, near Marseille, said the law could cut 1,000 to 1,500 euro (£781 to £1,172) from his annual income.

But Mr Hollande has argued that the new law is necessary to boost hiring and investment.

He said: "There are too many governments that have backed down, which is why I found the country in such a state in 2012."

France's economy has stagnated for years after successive governments tried reforms but failed.

A crowd of protesters followed Mr Hollande to a pharmaceutical laboratory he was visiting on Tuesday, demanding the law be abandoned.

Unions and leftist groups led peaceful protests in Lyon and Nantes under heavy police presence.

Protests against the bill have often turned violent as police clash with troublemakers hurling projectiles and damaging store fronts. Mr Hollande said those who come to protests just "to break things" would be punished, saying that 350 police officers have been injured in recent weeks and 60 people convicted.

Paris police banned some people from taking part in Tuesday's march through the capital, prompting some to file an emergency complaint for the alleged violation of their fundamental right to demonstrate.

Mr Hollande insisted he supports the right to demonstrate despite a state of emergency still in place after last year's deadly extremist attacks in Paris.

"That's part of freedom," he said.

Press Association

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