French government backs down on its trade union demonstration ban

People hold up their fists and wave CGT trade union flags during a demonstration in Paris called by various French unions to protest against governmental anti-worker plans on March 9, 2016 (AFP Photo/Matthieu Alexandre)

From Reuters news agency:

Wed Jun 22, 2016 1:20pm EDT

French government backs down on Paris protest ban

PARIS | By Brian Love and Ingrid Melander

France’s government said on Wednesday that trade unions could hold a protest march in Paris after earlier telling police to ban the demonstration, reversing course under fire from union bosses and dissenters in the ruling Socialist Party.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he had personally ordered the ban but then decided to allow Thursday’s protest against plans to loosen labor laws after an emergency meeting with the unions.

The ban would have been the first outlawing of a union-organized demonstration since 1962.

The initial decision to ban the march sparked instant condemnation from lawmakers across the political divide and stirred tensions within the deeply divided Socialist Party.

Philippe Martinez, leader of the hardline CGT union, claimed “a victory for unions” and sought to press home the advantage with a call for direct talks with Hollande over the government’s plans to make it easier to hire and fire workers.

“The president has no other choice but to meet with the unions, and quickly,” Martinez told a news conference.

Trade unions say the proposed reforms would erode the rights of workers and want the draft bill scrapped …

Hollande and his government are standing firm against union demands, even though opinion polls show he is France’s most unpopular leader in decades.

“We will press on with this bill … and it will be adopted because it is in the country’s interest,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told lawmakers.

Cazeneuve authorized a 1.5 km (1 mile) loop around a waterway at the foot of the Place de la Bastille square.

Karine Berger, a Socialist lawmaker who has been critical of the government’s policies, said on Twitter: “We’re back to what French democracy should be like.”

Backbench lawmaker Christian Paul had earlier said Valls was making “a historical mistake” with the ban, highlighting the rifts within the Socialist Party year ahead of presidential and legislative elections.

The last union-organized protest march to be banned in France — against the war in Algeria — was in 1962. The ban was defied, leading to clashes with police in which nine people died, eight of them CGT members.

(Additional reporting by Richard Lough, Simon Carraud, Gerard Bon and Emile Picy; Writing by Richard Lough and Brian Love; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Protests are to be held in cities across France today against the Socialist Party (PS) government’s despised labor law, after the PS suddenly backed down from threats to ban today’s protest in Paris. The unprecedented decision to threaten such a ban points to the advanced state of preparations for state repression of social opposition in the working class: here.

9 thoughts on “French government backs down on its trade union demonstration ban

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