Macron sparks outcry after telling workers protesting job cuts ‘to look for a job’
The 39-year-old French leader was visiting a training center in the Corrèze department in southwestern France on Wednesday. The city is some 100km from a GM&S auto-suppliers plant where workers staged repeated protests over job cuts.
Before the president’s visit the employees from the bankrupt plant gathered near the center of town, eager to ask the head of state about the fate of their company.
When Macron was told that another local factory, some 150km from GM&S was looking for workers, he said: “There are some who’d better go and see if they can have jobs there, rather than creating havoc.”
Macron, a former investment banker, was apparently referring to protests of GM&S employees. Some 280 jobs are on table after the plant went into receivership back in December – a form of bankruptcy in which a court-appointed trustee reorganizes the firm. After a planned takeover by French firm GMD, all but 120 jobs are expected to be axed.
‘Contempt for working class’
Macron’s comment’s triggered waves of criticism on social media. His spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit, took to Twitter to explain that the president’s quote “was taken out of context.” Macron “reminded that the search for solutions on unemployment issue depends on all actors [government and workers],” he added.
However, there were many, including French politicians, who slammed Macron for the comment.
“Macron’s contempt towards the working class who is fighting for their jobs is the image of the budget proposed by his government,” Clémentine Autain, a member of the National Assembly tweeted.
“1 job for 300 unemployed…’Get a job’, Macron has no idea what it is like [looking for a job],” Adrien Quatennens from La France Insoumise left-wing political party said. The party is headed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Macron’s presidential rival, who has repeatedly slammed his policies.
“Employees are fighting for their jobs. What Macron just did was his usual contempt for [the working] class,” Florian Philippot, a member of the European Parliament, who contributed to presidential campaign of right-wing Marine Le Pen, said.
“Macron never misses a chance to express his contempt for the French,” Valérie Boyer from the Republican Party wrote.
However, French Government spokesperson Christophe Castaner defended his ‘chef d'État’.
“A president should be able… to use the words that we all use all the time,” he said, as cited by BFMTV. “By saying ‘wreaking the havoc’ he [Macron] appealed to those who prevented GM&S employees from going to training centers.”
Macron’s ratings seem to have dropped significantly since his election. In September, the majority of French people said the policies of the recently-elected president were “unfair,” according to the Elabe online poll carried out in September.
Earlier the same month, Macron was harshly criticized for branding opponents of the labor reforms as being “lazy.” Quickly dubbed the ‘King of Slackers’ on Twitter, the French leader was undeterred, however, saying he has no regrets and aims to move the country forward.
Twitter also exploded with sarcasm a week ago after Macron reportedly told a former political rival, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, that “the king was elected four months ago,” apparently referring to his election victory in May.