04 May 2016
Millions of people have taken to the streets of French cities and towns to demonstrate against proposed laws that aim to decentralise collective bargaining, thus weakening trade union rights and dragging France into a pattern of increasing neoliberalism seen across the EU.
On April 28, around 500,000 participated in protests that are largely supported by the public. This follows several previous days of action throughout March and April, the largest of which on March 31 saw 1.2 million on the streets of more than 250 cities and towns across France. That evening, protestors gathered at Paris’s Place de la République to begin an occupation dubbed Nuit Debout (Up All Night), which has sparked copycat occupations in other parts of the country. The Nuit Debout movement is being compared with the Occupy Movement and is continuing to grow.
The protestors and unions are taking this action in solidarity against the proposed El Khomri Law – named after Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri – which intends to revise the country’s employment rights to place more weight on the rights of businesses and reduce the power of workers.
Some of the proposals include allowing companies to increase working hours and making it easier to dismiss employees for economic reasons.
The government claims these reforms are necessary to reduce unemployment in France, but unions and protestors say there is no logic to the argument that making it easier to fire staff and ask them to work for longer hours will create jobs!
Furthermore, the Bill would allow businesses to decentralise collective bargaining to a company-level rather than a sectoral level, which would see France take a similar route to countries forced by the Troika to weaken trade union powers – for more on this read Aristea Koukiadaki’s summary for the IER.