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French unions block fuel depots in labour law protests

© Charly Triballeau, AFP | A 'Charly Triballeau, AFP | A ' go-low' by French lorry drivers near Caen (Archive).

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-09-25

The French trade unions CGT and FO blocked access on Monday to several fuel depots in protest against an overhaul of employment laws, seeking to test the government's will to reform the economy.

In southern France, protesters' unions set up a road-block in front of Total's La Mede refinery, while in western France fuel depots were blocked near Bordeaux and the coastal city of La Rochelle. Union members also held go-slow operations on highways near Paris and in northern France.

"We're determined. We're going to stay as long as possible while hoping that other blockades take place elsewhere, maybe that'll make Mr. Macron move," Force Ouvriere union official Pascal Favre told Reuters.

Eager to avoid fuel shortages, centrist President Emmanuel Macron's government deployed police at some sites before dawn to ensure by force that protesters could not block access.

"It's not in blockading the country's economy and by preventing people from working, that one best defends one's cause," economy minister Benjamin Griveaux told RTL radio.

The labour reforms were made law after Macron formally signed five labour form decrees on Friday, in the first major economic reforms since he took power in May.

The new rules, discussed at length in advance with unions, will cap payouts on dismissals that are judged unfair, while also giving companies greater freedom to hire and fire employees and to agree working conditions.

Unionists say that the reforms will allow large scale redundancies and the “weakening" of workers’ representatives. More specifically, they are concerned about the possibility of negotiating in the company elements of remuneration (13th month, seniority bonus ...), hitherto fixed by the professional branch, which the employers dispute.

The reforms also “affect the seniority bonus, which make up 6% of our salaries,” CGT member Stanislas Baugé told AFP. “Many companies don’t pay overtime but make up for it through this bonus.”

While unions have failed to derail the reforms, the considerable political capital Macron had after his landslide election victory in May is quickly evaporating.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

Date created : 2017-09-25

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