President firm on 'labour' bill in face of protests
Tear gas briefly choked a Left Bank neighbourhood and truckers blocked highways in Provence and Normandy in new tensions over a French labour bill yesterday, but the president insisted that he won't abandon the contested reform.
France is facing a tense week of strikes and other union action against the bill, which has met fierce resistance in Parliament and in the streets.
A peaceful march yesterday by union members through Paris was interrupted when masked protesters threw projectiles and riot police responded with tear gas that rose up in the surrounding streets. A bus stop was scrawled with graffiti in English reading "Tourist go home, refugees come." The march later resumed.
Truck drivers joined in the protests yesterday, blocking roads around Marseille and the western cities of Nantes and Le Mans. They fear a drop in income because the bill cuts overtime pay.
Marseille union leader Laurent Casanova said the goal "is to paralyse traffic ... and block the economy." Truck driver John Bosco in Vitrolles, near Marseille, said the law could cut 1,000 to 1,500 euros ($1,130 to $1,700) from his annual income.
"I will not back down" on the bill, President Francois Hollande said yesterday on Europe-1 radio, arguing that the new law is necessary to boost hiring and investment.
"There are too many governments that have backed down, which is why I found the country in such a state in 2012," he said.