French Union CGT Fails to Agree With Minister on Labor Bill

  • CGT chief held talks with Labor Minister El Khomri in Paris
  • Unions plan two new nationwide protest marches June 23 and 28

France is gearing up for more demonstrations against the government’s bill to overhaul the labor law after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri failed to find common ground with her most vehement union opponent in a meeting Friday.

“Our disagreements were confirmed,” Confederation Generale du Travail chief Philippe Martinez said as he left the talks in Paris. The government must “re-write or scrap certain articles of its bill.” Martinez said he sees “no reason” to call off two nationwide protests set for June 23 and June 28 and organized with a group of seven labor unions.

For four months, labor unions and student groups have been battling the government’s plan to allow businesses to increase working hours with minimal compensation, cap severance pay and eliminate jobs more easily. Friday’s failure to find an accord may extend the protests deeper into the summer.

The government is ready to use an emergency measure bypassing the parliament for a second time in order to push its plans into law, the Socialist whip in the National Assembly, Bruno Le Roux, said Friday. Senators began debating the bill on Monday. The legislation has already been watered down in the lower chamber and the opposition Republican Senators who control the upper chamber have vowed to completely rewrite it.

The tussle between Hollande’s Socialist government and France’s most strident labor unions has caused strikes in public transport and garbage collection, shortages of gasoline supplies as well as occasional outbreaks of violence. The most recent march on June 14 in Paris led to skirmishes with police.

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