Labor union protests: Macron faces his first major political challenge
French President Emmanuel Macron's approval ratings have significantly dipped in the past four months since he's come to power. In his first major political test, France's powerful CGT trade union has called for widespread protests against his proposed labor reforms. France is also set to witness a string of protests against Macron in the coming days. Will Macron back down to protesters' demands?
The union has called for 180 protests and 4,000 individual strikes to be held in cities, including Paris, Marseilles and Toulouse. It has called for students, civil servants, railway and public sector workers to join in.
Macron's popularity has dipped faster than any of the previous French presidents. According to a recent poll, only 35% of the French public was satisfied with him compared to 64% as assessed by the same poll in May. His recent comments in Greece calling French people "lazy" had attracted controversy. He had further termed factory workers "illiterate" inviting the ire of the French public.
The CGT union called for protests against Macron's proposed labor reforms which are aimed at increasing the employment rate. These reforms allow employers more flexibility in deciding wages and working hours, much to the workers' chagrin. Philippe Martinez, CGT chief, has called these reforms "a major social setback" and has stated that his union would continue the strike until the government scraps its reforms.
The CGT union protests will soon be followed by a student protest later this month. Far left leader Jean Luc-Melenchon's "France Unbowed" movement is also planning on holding protests on September 23.
Signalling his intent to carry on with the reforms, Macron recently said, "I am fully determined and won't cede any ground, not to slackers, nor cynics, nor hardliners." Completely ignoring the protests, the President spent his day on the island of Saint Martin, assessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. In all likelihood, Macron will not likely back down from implementing the reforms.