Violent clashes in Paris over labour law

Four protesters and 15 police officers were hurt on Thursday, including two officers who sustained burns when demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails.
Four protesters and 15 police officers were hurt on Thursday, including two officers who sustained burns when demonstrators hurled Molotov cocktails.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Police, protesters injured in latest demonstrations against reforms

PARIS • French riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades on Thursday in clashes with angry opponents of labour reforms, the latest outbreak of violence over the controversial new law.

Four demonstrators and 15 police officers were hurt - including two officers who sustained burns because of Molotov cocktails - as tens of thousands rallied in Paris against the law forced through by the Socialist government. Police used water cannon and tear gas as protests also turned violent in Nantes in western France, one of at least 10 provincial cities which saw rallies.

"The violence is unacceptable," said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, noting that police had arrested 62 people across the country, 32 of whom were kept in custody.

The authorities said that some 78,000 people rallied nationwide, including 13,000 in Paris. Protest organisers put the numbers across France at around 170,000.

The law, aimed at loosening France's notoriously rigid employment rules, was forced through in July after months of often-violent protests. In all, Mr Cazeneuve said, 620 police officers have been injured since the protests started.

The law notably makes it easier to fire workers during downturns and for bosses to negotiate directly with employees on working time.

Scores of flights in and out of the country were also cancelled yesterday as air traffic controllers went on strike to protest the law.

Mr Francois Roche, a member of the hard-line CGT union demonstrating in Marseille, said: "We will show them that, law or no law, we will always stand against them."

Turnout nationwide was far lower than at the first rallies earlier this year, which saw hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets.

The new law - one of the few major reforms of President Francois Hollande's tenure - aims to bring down France's unemployment rate, which is about 10 per cent.

Opponents, however, see the measures as an erosion of workers' hard-won collective bargaining rights. Mr Hollande, who has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election next year, had hoped for a signature reform to boost his dire approval ratings. Currently, around four out of five French voters oppose him standing for a second term.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Violent clashes in Paris over labour law'. Print Edition | Subscribe