Almost 180,000 workers in several cities across France took part in protests in the middle of September 2016 against the passing of an anti-labour law in Parliament.
Workers in France as other workers in the advanced capitalist countries, have won several rights through decades of struggles. The new law aims to take away some of these rights, with the stated aim of bringing unemployment down and making the economy "more competitive". The so-called Loi travail law aims to make it easier for companies to increase working hours beyond the current working week which is now capped at 35 hours, and facilitate lay-offs. Workers in France had managed till now to maintain sector-wide collective bargaining. That means that even a smaller company in a certain sector, had to abide by the same regulations in terms of how it treats and pays its workers, as any other company in that sector until this law came through. One of the aspects of this law that was pushed through was a change, so that the smaller companies have different regulations than larger companies. The measures announced by the government of President Francois Hollande are thus seen as an erosion of workers' hard-won collective bargaining rights, as the changes will enable companies to justify lay-offs by citing "economic" reasons, such as falling sales or operating losses.
Though the government has a majority in Parliament the unpopular law was passed by the government using a provision that permits laws to be passed without even debating them in Parliament. This shows how scared the government was of severe criticism from its own party members. Workers in France have been battling this law for several months now.
On Thursday 15th September 2016, actions were held in many cities across France. More than 30,000 workers took part in the demonstration in the capital city of Paris. About 15 people were injured in clashes with the police. Scores of flights in and out of the country were also cancelled as air traffic controllers went on strike to protest the law. The action prompted aviation authorities to advise airlines serving Paris airports to cancel 15 percent of their flights on that day.
In the eastern city of Belfort, hundreds of demonstrators marched through the city after the monopoly Alstom announced a week before that it would close the plant due to a lack of orders and move production to a site 200km to the north. This could lead to 400 workers losing their jobs.
Vigorous protests were held in many other cities such as in which a total of 180,000 workers are estimated to have participated. The French workers have vowed to continue their fight by many other means even though the law had been passed by Parliament.