Over 223,000 people united on Tuesday in protest against French Employment Law reforms. Philippe Martinez, of the French General Confederation of Labour, proclaimed the rally a success, wrote Le Monde.
‘We are off to a promising start,’ declared Martinez, who spearheaded the rally alongside several other unions. Reported turnout figures across the country varied widely; in Marseille, 7,500 according to local authorities or 60,000 according to the organisers; in Nantes, 6,200 compared to 15,000; and in Havre, 3,400 compared to 10,000.
Minor clashes in Paris
The Parisian procession marched from La Place de la Bastille – accompanied by a fairground brass band – to La Place d’Italie. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the rally was marred by several incidents. Protesters threw projectiles at police, who retaliated with tear gas and water cannons, as observed by a journalist from Le Monde.
Police stated that 300 people in balaclavas were present at the march and reported ‘several acts of vandalism’, including the damaging of windows and defacing of adverts. One person was taken to hospital.
Political personalities mobilised
Amongst the crowd were several political figures such as Benoît Hamon, Socialist Party candidate in the last election, Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the French Communist Party.
In Marseille, leader of ‘La France Insoumise’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon promised to ‘make the President back down’. In Strasbourg, five European MPs participated in the protest.
Placards bore messages targeting Macron for recent remarks in which he promised ‘to make no concessions to absconders, cynics or extremists’. One banner read, ‘You’re in trouble Macron, the slackers are marching on.’
Strikes and blockades
The day was also marked by strikes and deliberate travel disruptions. Several schools in Paris and surrounding areas were partially or momentarily blocked off by students, but without violence.
Tens of fairground lorries disrupted morning traffic in Paris and the rest of France, in response to a call to protest by the ‘Fairground King’ Marcel Campion. According to Campion, ‘around 10,000 trucks were mobilised throughout France, of which between 400 and 500 were in Paris.’
Divided trade unions
The proposed reforms go against many of Macron’s electoral promises: a cap on compensation awarded by industrial tribunals, the merging of independent staff representatives into companies, reform of the CPPP (safeguard against ‘difficult working conditions’) and greater power accorded to intra-company agreements.
Yet the unions are divided. The Worker’s Force did not publicly align itself with the movement, though some members decided independently to protest. The same was true for the Democratic Confederation of Labour, the Confederation of Management, the Confederation of Christian Workers and the National Union of Autonomous Unions.
The General Confederation of Labour has already called for another protest on the 21st September, the day before the reforms are presented at a Cabinet meeting.