‘Paris ignoring violent protests, ramming through labor reform without parliament vote'
A large number of French unions held protest against labor reforms in Paris on Thursday. Demonstrators had clashes with riot police throwing fire bombs and setting rubbish ablaze. Officers in turn, unleashed tear gas on the activists.
Opponents of the reform say it is skewed in favor of employers, while the government says it will boost jobs.
RT: What is it that the protesters hate so much about this law?
Nikola Mircovic: Well, the protesters detest it because it is a false answer, and many people in France know that it is a false answer to the strong unemployment problem that is going on here. Over 10 percent of the population – that is the official figure of the unemployed; that figure goes to 25 percent concerning the youth. The fact is that the government just pushed this law without even trying to negotiate it. I think a lot of the protesters blame the government for not trying to discuss a lot of the elements in this law, are esteemed to be making jobs more precarious and they see how it is going to be easier to lay people off, to make them redundant. But many specialists say they don’t see how this is going to create jobs. A French association of HR managers, one of the primary associations, in a recent poll – 80 percent of them said that not one single job will be created by this law. That is why the people are so upset.
RT: The labor reform was forced through the parliament this summer, with the government using an emergency power to do that. Is that’s something that the protesters are not ok with, as well?
NM: Definitely. This Article 49.3 enables a French prime minister to have a law get passed and adopted without even without having the assembly members voting for it. Today there is a majority of Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ Socialist party in the parliament – that means he doesn’t even dare to present this law to his own deputies, which are in the majority because he knows that a lot of members of the Parliament from the left will vote against it. This was very, very unpopular in France. Nobody likes it when a Prime Minister does that. That means there is no negotiation, no discussion whatsoever and he is forcing the law through… The fact that they’re pushing it through and accepting such violence [from the protesters] definitely shows that, unfortunately, Paris has an agenda of lists to do for the European Union.
Powers-that-be versus workers
George Barda, Activist at Occupy, UK, said that recent protests against labor law in France is part of a wider, very long-running battle on the part the powers-that-be in finance against workers right across Europe.
RT: What do you make of yesterday protest in Paris? Why are authorities so eager to implement this law despite the mass public opposition?
George Barda: I think this is part of a wider, very long-running battle on the part of the powers-that-be in business and finance against workers’ rights across Europe. And France obviously has a much more effective tradition over the last 30 years of fighting against these kinds of constraints on workers’ rights. But in Europe with Germany and the UK with their lower labor regulations, the pressure for a long time on France has been to lower their protections for workers.
What they were effectively protesting is the pushing through of this set of reforms through the French Parliament without a vote, because it was understood by the government that they would actually lose the vote, because there is a huge split within the governing Socialist party. So the protest on the street has just been in latest in months and months of struggle by many, many different groups to oppose this sort of race to the bottom in Europe on workers’ rights.
RT: What can you tell us about this labor?
GB: One of the most specific things is that – like in some other very successful European countries that still have very strong labor protections – like Finland, Sweden and France has managed to maintain sector-wide collective bargaining. That means that even a small company in a certain sector in terms of how it treats and pays its workers, until this law came through, had to abide by the same regulations as any other company in terms of how these workers get treated. One of the aspects of this law that was pushed through after months of battling was a change, so that the smaller companies have different regulations than larger companies.
Essentially this is about a whole complex set of many, many different details that have been battled over for months. The result of it, ironically, is that you have a law that businesses aren’t in particular happy with because they didn’t get what they wanted, and the people who’ve been protesting for months haven’t got what they wanted either.
I think there is an understanding also that this is probably for now the last wave of big street mobilizations and the determination amongst the unions and workers and others that have been fighting this law is to pursue efforts against it in the courts now, and company by company as they try to force through reductions to workers, workers conditions. So this is very much an ongoing battle with a lot of technical detail that has been wrangled over for months.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.