French protests against proposed labour reforms turn violent

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Paris, April 29 (IANS) Violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators erupted during protest marches against proposed labour reforms across France with scores of youth arrested and several policemen injured.

In Paris, a reported 60,000 people responded to the call of seven trade and student unions to take to the street to voice their opposition to reform labour laws that they say favour business leaders and weaken workers’ rights on Thursday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Interior Ministry put the number at up to 15,000 protesters in the French capital where seven policemen were injured with one in serious situation after they clashed with groups of masked youth hurling projectiles. Five of them were arrested.

Violent incidents were also reported across French cities. In Marseille town, 57 people were arrested, while in Nantes, 23 others were arrested and six policemen were wounded, according to local reports.

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Denouncing violent clashes, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 124 people were arrested and 24 police officers were wounded during the demonstrations.

Some 170,000 demonstrators across the country took part in the country’s rallies against changing labour laws, police data showed.

On March 31, a protest drew an estimated 390,000 people.

With the national unemployment rate at 10.2 percent, the Socialist government plans to loosen labour rules by making layoffs easier, reducing overtime pay and economic redundancies and opening to negotiation working hours and holidays.

French unions and leftist politicians, however, say such move would create more low-paid jobs and further weaken workers’ finances.

Under pressure, the French government unveiled earlier this month new aid to youth worth up to 500 million euros ($566.83 million)

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With a large slice of jobseekers are between 18 and 25 years, the governing Socialists said they would impose additional taxes on short-term contracts to encourage companies to recruit young workers on full-time contracts. They also promised aid to apprentices and students.

“The government has already made some moves, but they are clearly insufficient. This mobilization is both against the government and also against the parliament,” Claude Mailly, head of Force Ouvriere (FO) union, was quoted as saying by local media.

The National Assembly will examine the draft text to reform labour laws next Tuesday.



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