‘King of slackers’: Fury after Macron brands labor reforms opponents ‘lazy’ ahead of mass protests
Macron’s controversial comments came while on a visit to Greece Friday.
“France is not a country which is open to reforms. France does not reform... because we rebel, we resist, we circumvent. This is what we are like,” the 39-year-old president said, speaking at a French archaeology school in Athens.
What France needs is a “profound transformation,” including the labor sector Macron said. He said his reform policy would be carried out “without brutality, calmly, with reason and sense.”
“I will be absolutely determined and I will not yield anything, either to the lazy, the cynics or the extreme. And I ask you to have the same determination, each day,” Macron said, prompting furious responses back home.
The ‘lazy’ comment caused a stir among French politicians and on social media.
Macron’s presidential rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon reacted angrily to the president’s statement. “Stupid, cynical, lazy, all in the street on September 12 and 23!” he tweeted, drumming up support for the planned labor reform protests.
Benoît Hamon from the Socialist Party also blasted the president’s comments.
“I find it unbelievable. Lazy people are the independently wealthy, who don't need to work for a living,” Macron’s other rival said, “And a lot of independently wealthy picked Emmanuel Macron as their champion.”
Florian Philippot, vice president of the National Front noted that "insulting people has become second nature for Macron.”
“The president is insulting people who oppose his politics. Emmanuel Macron does not love the French, that's for sure,” Pierre Laurent, Secretary General of the French Communist Party tweeted.
The French public also took to twitter to lash out at the president’s comments, calling him the “king of slackers.”
The French President, however, appeared unfazed.
“People want to distort [my comment] to create false polemics,” he said during a visit to the southern French city of Toulouse.
Macron added that he did not regret his comments and that the country would not move forward “unless we tell the truth.”
Reforming the country's strict labor laws has been one of Macron’s top priorities. In August, his government begun the final round of talks with trade unions on liberalizing the country’s labor laws which the government hopes will reduce the 9.5 percent unemployment rate in France.
Francois Hollande’s Socialist government sparked months of violent protests trying to push through a less ambitious labor reform bill in 2016. The rallies often ended in confrontations between police and demonstrators.
Macron wants to grant employers more power to negotiate employment conditions with workers, which some believe will diminish the weight of trade unions. The former investment banker also wants to cap the compensation awarded by courts in dismissal cases.
The General Confederation of Labor (CGT) union has already called for a massive nationwide rally on September 12. CGT Secretary General Philippe Martinez said more than 180 demonstrations are being planned across the country.