France hit by new strikes, protests over labor reforms

PARIS (AA)- France’s socialist government, in the hot seat for its controversial labor reforms, faces a fresh wave of protests and new nationwide strikes on Thursday, with the French Occupy movement gaining more ground.

Despite the French government’s promise of 400-500 million euros (US$457-$571 million) worth of new employment and education measures, trade and student unions called on millions of workers and students across France to take to the streets for a “day of action” against the French government’s planned unpopular labor reforms.

In recent weeks, thousands of people have joined sweeping protests against the “El Khomri” draft law – named after Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, whom opponents accuse of being pro-business.

The draft law was presented to the cabinet on March 24, having been watered down, and is due to be taken up by parliament in May.

With France gripped by a 10.2 percent unemployment rate, the government sees the bill as the key to tackle record joblessness.

The country expects chaos in transportation and aviation as rail workers – striking since Monday – and air traffic controllers respond to the union’s call.

The French Civil Aviation Authority, DGAC, said in a statement that 20 percent of flights are cancelled at Paris’ Orly airport, while other airports could see significant delays.

– Nuit Debout: French Occupy movement expands

The “Nuit Debout” or Up All Night movement, which has held mass nighttime sit-ins in Paris’s Place de La Republique and about a dozen provincial cities for more than 20 consecutive nights, is gaining more ground and has been praised by students, workers, and activists as a revolutionary call for change.

The French Occupy movement has been campaigning against the labor reform bill, and now it has joined actors and theatre and film technicians, who have occupied Paris’s Odeon theatre since Sunday with five other provincial theatres.

Organizers from the movement said also they will be joining massive May 1 labor unions protests.