Francois Hollande stands firm as unrest spreads

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Riot police detain a protester during a demonstration in Paris. Photo / AP

French President yesterday pledged to press on with his unpopular labour reforms, despite strikes that have paralysed the nation.
“I will keep going because I think these are good reforms,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan, adding that his Government would ensure freedom of movement for citizens beset with rail strikes and fuel blockades.
Unions yesterday called on workers to “continue and step up their action” as a wave of strikes against a disputed labour law disrupted transport and fuel supplies.
Unions issued a joint statement urging members to “multiply and support” industrial action, as they attempt to step up the pressure on Hollande’s Socialist Government.
With just two weeks until hosts the Euro 2016 football championship, the country has been gripped by more than a week of rolling strikes that have disrupted transport and sparked fuel shortages.
“The strength of the statements given by the Government, their … stubbornness in not withdrawing the draft legislation are boosting the determination” of the union movement, the statement said.

Police fired tear gas at around 100 protesters who broke away from a march through the capital to smash windows of shops and parked cars, an AFP reporter said, in the latest outburst of anger at the controversial legislation.Yesterday, masked youths clashed with police in Paris and striking workers blockaded refineries and disrupted nuclear power stations.
Nationwide protests saw 153,000 people take to the streets overall, officials said, though union leaders put the number at 300,000.
French authorities said 62 demonstrators were taken into custody across the country, 32 of them in the capital, while 15 security officers were injured in clashes.
One person was badly hurt in the unrest in Paris and had to be hospitalised, police said. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for a probe into the incident that led to the man’s injuries.
Although some blockades on fuel depots and refineries in the north of the country were called off, many motorists were still stuck in long queues at petrol stations around France.

Riot police officers take cover as they clash with protestors during a demonstration held as part of nationwide labor actions in Paris. Photo / AP

A man in his 50s had to be airlifted to hospital after he was seriously injured when a motorist rammed a roadblock outside a petrol refinery at Fos-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean coast.
At the Tricastin nuclear plant in southern France, workers set fire to piles of tyres, sending clouds of black smoke into the sky.
Unions are furious about the legislation forced through Parliament by the deeply unpopular Socialist Government which is aiming to reform France’s famously rigid labour laws by making it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls insisted that the legislation would not be withdrawn, but said it might still be possible to make “changes” or “improvements”.
But there were signs that some in the ruling Socialist Party were buckling, with Finance Minister Michel Sapin suggesting the most contested part of the legislation should be rewritten.
Valls slapped Sapin down and ruled out revamping the clause, which gives individual companies more of a free hand in setting working conditions.
“You cannot blockade a country, you cannot attack the economic interests of France in this way,” a defiant Valls told Parliament, after earlier branding the hardline CGT union that is driving the protests “irresponsible”.

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