Masked protesters in Paris rally against labour reforms

Demonstrators wearing masks clashing with police in Paris yesterday. At least 26 people were injured and 15 arrested as tens of thousands of people rallied against the planned labour law reforms that would make hiring and firing easier.
Demonstrators wearing masks clashing with police in Paris yesterday. At least 26 people were injured and 15 arrested as tens of thousands of people rallied against the planned labour law reforms that would make hiring and firing easier.PHOTO: REUTERS

Demonstrators clash with police in biggest show of strength to oppose new hiring, firing rules

PARIS • Several hundred masked protesters hurled objects at the police during a massive demonstration in Paris against a contested reform of French labour laws.

Demonstrators stormed a building site, taking wooden palettes and throwing them at riot police, the authorities said yesterday. At least 26 people were injured and 15 arrested.

Tens of thousands of people rallied in Paris against the planned labour law reforms that would make hiring and firing easier. The Eiffel Tower was closed as staff members stopped work to join the protest.

The protests came at a time when police are struggling to ensure security during the month-long European Championship football tournament, which has already been marred by fan clashes.

Terrorism fears surged after a man who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria killed a police officer and his partner in a Paris suburb on Monday.

The General Confederation of Labour, or CGT, said the Paris march was the biggest show of strength since protests over the planned labour reform began in March. "This is not the end," CGT leader Philippe Martinez said."The struggle is far from over."

About 700 buses ferried protesters to the capital from all over France for the march, Mr Martinez added. Smaller protests were being staged in other cities.

Police planning was based on the possibility that more than 50,000 people would take part, Paris Police Prefect Michel Cadot told reporters. The risk of more trouble from masked and hooded rioters could not be ruled out, he said.

Workers stopped work in tandem at the state-owned SNCF rail company, which nevertheless said disruption was far less than at the outset of a rolling strike two weeks ago or on previous occasions this year.

Some 90 per cent of high-speed connections were operating and other services were working at about 70 per cent, SNCF said.

Taxi drivers who are waging a campaign against unregulated competitors staged protests, too, in a demonstration that snarled up traffic on the western edge of Paris.

President Francois Hollande's Socialist government has refused to change tack on the new law. It forced it through the Lower House of Parliament by decree last month and aims to make it law by next month. The government says the reforms will help tackle a jobless rate of 10 per cent and also develop labour representation at grassroots level. Youth unemployment is about 24 per cent.

Meanwhile, several Russian football supporters were thrown out of France yesterday because the authorities fear they will cause further trouble at Euro 2016 matches, officials said. Uefa has declared Russia responsible for stadium disturbances, racist chanting and fireworks thrown during the game with England in Marseille on Saturday.

The European football association imposed a suspended disqualification and a fine of €150,000 (S$230,000) fine on the Russian Football Union yesterday. Russia also risks getting thrown out of Euro 2016 if its fans cause further trouble inside a stadium.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2016, with the headline 'Masked protesters in Paris rally against labour reforms'. Print Edition | Subscribe