French truckers block roads in protest

PARIS • Truckers have blocked motorways across France as opponents of proposed labour law reforms began a fresh wave of strikes and street marches.

This week has been billed by the French media as make or break for a protest movement that appears to be losing steam after weeks of sometimes violent confrontation.

President Francois Hollande stood firm, saying that the law - a flagship reform that would make hiring and firing easier - would not be scrapped.

The truckers were able to slow or block traffic at strategic points in the north and west in yesterday's motorways protest, most notably in the Bordeaux region where they turned away deliveries to a supermarket supply hub and a fuel depot. Marches in Paris and other French cities were also scheduled, with rail workers set to join the fray with stoppages expected to cause major disruption for commuters until Friday.

The hardline CGT labour union has called for rolling strikes by rail workers, dockers and airport staff.

Mr Hollande said more than 1,000 people had been arrested and more than 300 police officers injured during the clashes of recent months, with some troublemakers travelling from overseas to join the unrest.

"People have a right to protest but rioting is an offence that will be punished," he said.

Turnout numbers from police suggest protest numbers fell at rallies last week to tens of thousands from the hundreds of thousands earlier - fuelling claims that the protest movement is weakening.

The government has watered down its initial labour law reforms, but last week decided to bypass Parliament and force the change through by decree, causing splits within its own ranks in Parliament.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'French truckers block roads in protest'. Print Edition | Subscribe