Paris Braces for Labor-Law March as Government Backs Down on Ban

  • Labor unions stage their 10th protest in over three months
  • Initial police ban followed violence at last demonstration

Workers and students are demonstrating in Paris on Thursday to protest President Francois Hollande’s labor laws reform after the government backed down on its initial ban of the march, which created an uproar in France.

Demonstrators will walk from the Place de la Bastille to the Seine river, in a 1.6 kilometer (1 mile) loop surrounded by security forces. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Wednesday overturned a decision taken hours earlier by Paris police, who were concerned the demonstration posed a threat to security after similar protests last week degenerated into violence. The minister said the marchers will be allowed to follow a revised, shorter itinerary set by his office and warned against any “scuffle or violence.”

This is the 10th march against the government’s bill and demonstrators are planning to stage their protest in Paris and in several cities across France. The conflict between Hollande’s Socialist government and France’s labor unions has gripped the country since March. Both sides have vowed to continue their confrontation as the bill is still in debate in Parliament.

“We hope the government will renounce this bill -- this isn’t a battle, this is in the general interest of workers as the bill will create social dumping,” Confederation Generale du Travail chief Philippe Martinez said on RMC radio Thursday.

Police Stretched

Seven labor unions are calling for marches Thursday and next Tuesday while thousands of soccer fans from across Europe are visiting France for the European championships. Police in the capital said they were already stretched by the soccer tournament and the threat of terrorism when they announced the ban.

Labor union chiefs have said they will refuse to further negotiate with the government and called upon President Hollande to step in. “It’s up to the president to take some responsibility now,” Force Ouvriere leader Jean-Claude Mailly said on Europe 1 radio Thursday.

Before the canceled demonstration ban, a measure not used against a labor unions in over 50 years, the government had already used an emergency procedure to bypass rebels in parliament. It’s threatening to use it again, the Socialist whip in the National Assembly, Bruno Le Roux, said Friday, infuriating unions and also lawmakers from within the majority.

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