Seven French unions vow to continue, expand anti-reform strikes

PARIS, May 27 (KUNA) — Seven French unions, led by the Communist General Confederation of Workers (CGT), warned Friday they would continue and expand disruptive strike action if the government does not back down and withdraw a reform-oriented Labour Law.
The new legislation was forced through Parliament earlier in May by a no-confidence vote by the government of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, against the wishes of some of his core Socialist party deputies. It will go to the Senate for a vote on June 14 and may return again to the lower house.
The CGT published a statement Friday saying “the mobilisation continues and is being amplified,” an indication more stoppages and walkouts can be expected across the country.
France is already suffering from fuel shortages in about 25 percent of petrol stations because of stoppages at six of the country’s eight refineries.
Supplies are being drawn down from the nation’s “strategic reserves” to stem the shortages, which have caused some panic buying.
Stoppages also started at some nuclear power stations on Thursday, as the CGT and other unions threatened a strike at 19 of these facilities. No power shortages were reported because of the union action.
French President Francois Hollande, speaking from the G7 meeting in Japan, said that he would not back down on the Labour Law reforms and he fully backed his Prime Minister.
His statement was met with an equally defiant threat from the seven unions involved in the strikes.
“We remain determined,” the joint union statement said, but noted they would “respect democracy.” Next week, Paris transport and air traffic controllers from the CGT are also threatening to walk off the job, but the CGT does not have majority control in all sectors here.
About 150,000 people marched on Thursday against the Labour Law – unions said there was double that number – and again the marches were marred by some violence and attacks on riot police, who responded with tear gas and baton charges.
In France, just over 11 percent of the workforce is unionised, but unions are powerful in some essential sectors like transport, power generation, energy and education, among them.
The disruptions are taking place only two weeks before the planned opening of the Euro ’16 soccer tournament that is expected to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to France. (end) jk.hb

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