Furore over protest ban in Paris
French citizens have taken to social media to vent their outrage over the government's decision to ban a protest by labour unions scheduled to take place on 23 June in Paris. Citizens denounced the government's move, stating that this has given them another reason to protest. Police cited the high levels of violence in previous protests and "terrorist threats" as reasons for the ban.
The French government allowed Prime Minister Manuel Valls to sidestep the parliament and push through labour reforms by decree. The reforms will make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. According to the government, these reforms are vital to boost economic growth and decrease unemployment. According to angry students and union members, these reforms are an attack on workers' rights.
The bill proposes reforms which changes France's 35-hour working week. Firms can now negotiate for more or fewer hours upto a maximum of 46 hours. Firms have greater freedom to reduce pay. The law makes it easy to lay off workers with a hope that companies will hire more people knowing they can shed jobs. Employers can also negotiate holidays and special leaves.
Protests against the reforms kicked off early this year. They took place in cities like Nantes, Paris, Rennes and Marseille. Two dozen police officers were injured at a violent protest where security forces responded with tear gas and batons. French airports and railways faced disorder in scheduling due to anti-labour law strikes. 3 of Total's 9 oil depots were blocked.
Since the Socialist government of President Francois Hollande forced labour reforms without a parliamentary vote on May 10, France has witnessed a wave of protests. 1 out of 5 gas stations faced fuel shortages. 800 out of 11,500 stations ran completely out of fuel. Protestors blocked deliveries from atleast half of France's 8 refineries. Fuel shortage news sent wary drivers rushing to gas stations.
Adding to the woes of the French government, France's railway workers have joined the strike in protest of recently promulgated labour laws. This will further exacerbate France's transport issues which are already facing crippling fuel shortages. In addition, Paris metro staff are due to go on strike on 2 June. Sources said Air France pilots have also voted to strike over their pay.
In a sign of exacerbating tensions between the French government and labour protesters, Paris metro workers have joined the country-wide labour strike. In addition, it is expected that dock workers in France will also join the protest and halt their work. Only 60% of high-speed trains and between a third and a half of other services were running as of 2 June.
The French government condemned the calls for strikes issued by pilots and rail workers as the strikes threaten to endanger the smooth functioning of the Euro 2016 football championships. The strikes have reduced train services in Paris to half the efficiency. The four day pilot's strike, which would commence today would also severely affect tourism to the capital.
Officials from France's waste management authority have joined the ongoing labour protests in the country. Collection of waste from several areas have already been suspended and garbage has begun to accumulate on street corners. The main waste treatment and incineration site for Paris has been blockaded for 10 days. The strike has severely affected key venues for the Euro 2016 football tournament.
French President Francois Hollande warned protesters not to engage in disruptive activities ahead of the Euro 2016 football championships. Asserting that the state would have to allow the games to proceed, he said "the state must do its duty - and it will, it will take all the measures that are necessary." Sports Minister Thierry Braillard urged the protesters to think of football fans.
Air France canceled 30% of their flights, as the airlines' pilots began a four-day strike over the French government's labour reforms. The strike poses a threat to tourists and football fans for the ongoing UEFA Euro 2016 football competition. However, Air France CEO Frederic Gagey, promised to try and minimise disruption to the tournament by prioritizing journeys to cities hosting matches in the tournament.
Forty people were injured and several others were arrested as labour protests gathered momentum across Paris. Strikes forced authorities to shut the Eiffel Tower and transportation systems were disrupted as well. Authorities said 29 of those injured in Paris were police officers. Protesters have resorted to throwing dangerous objects and setting public property on fire, in a severe escalation of tensions.