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French Labor Minister Negotiates with Unions on Labor Reform

After weeks of strikes and street violence over proposed labor reforms, French Minister of Labor Myriam El Khomri agreed to meet with Phillippe Martinez, leader of the left-wing labor union CGT

The leader of France's left-wing CGT union Philippe Martinez, left, and French Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, leave the ministry after their meeting in Paris, Friday, June 17, 2016, photo: AP
1 year ago

PARIS — The leader of France’s left-wing CGT union, the main force of opposition to an unpopular labor reform bill that has led to violence in the streets, says he’s asked the labor minister to suspend parliamentary debate on the measure and re-write it.

Two days after an 80,000-strong Paris demonstration that degenerated into violent clashes with the police, Philippe Martinez met on Friday with Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, and said later that two planned protest actions this month would not be called off, at least for now.

The contested bill would weaken France’s tight labor protections, notably allowing individual companies, after negotiations, to set specific work rules — such as working hours but not wages — instead of applying industry-wide deals. El Khomri insists the issue remains key to the reform.

Martinez said: “We’ve always said the bill should be withdrawn to be re-written.”

The bill is to be voted on June 28 in the Senate. The text will then need to be debated again in the lower house of parliament, which has final say.

A group of seven worker unions and student organizations, including the CGT, has called for two “national days of mobilization” on June 23 and June 28.

Earlier this week, President François Hollande warned that future street protests might be banned if the safety of people and public property is threatened.

Separately, three Air France pilots’ unions called Friday for a 4-day strike next week to demand better working conditions. Flights carrying spectators to cities holding matches for the European soccer championship might be affected.

Last week, about 20 percent of Air France’s domestic and international flights were cancelled in a strike for the same reasons.

Unions plan to keep up the strike from June 24 to June 27, demanding better pay and more flight hours.

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