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French tempers flare in fight over factory

Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 02:24

March 7 - Further anger spills onto the Paris streets at a jobs protest by Goodyear tyre factory workers, but the government -- like the unions -- has been struggling to prevent job losses, but could the fight to save jobs do more harm than good? Joel Flynn reports.

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Anger, violence, and fire at yet another protest in Paris. These Goodyear workers are fighting to save their tyre factory from closure. Latest employment figures show the jobless rate in France is at its highest for 13 years. The government - like the unions - is desperate to stop companies cutting jobs as it tries to cut debts. But without growth President Hollande is finding it hard to persuade firms to keep struggling plants open. Philippe Moreau-Defarges is from the French Institute of International Relations. SOUNDBITE: French Institute of International Relations research fellow, Philippe Moreau-Defarges, saying (English): "The French government is in a very difficult situation. On the one side he wants to seduce, he wants to convince international investors, businessmen, and on this side, to please his electoral bases, he must make strong gestures against these people, and that is very difficult." Scenes like this are not what Francois Hollande envisaged when he was elected last year. He promised to halt the relentless rise in unemployment, and vowed to restore France's industrial competitiveness. But Scotia Bank's Alan Clarke says it's not all bad news. SOUNDBITE: Scotia Bank Economist, Alan Clarke, saying: "France is in a good position; it's seen what austerity has done in the periphery, it's seen what it's done in the UK, and we've got no growth in either. So actually I would be inclined to say 'go for growth' - please the employers and air on the side of less austerity, because, as you've seen everywhere else, no growth. Yeah there's been some progress on the public finances, but why not try something different?" Hollande's approval ratings have slumped to around 30 percent as his government battles a tide of factory closures. SOUNDBITE: French Institute of International Relations research fellow, Philippe Moreau-Defarges, saying (English): "It will take time, it will be painful, because we have committed decades of laxity, and we have this huge problem of debt, and maybe it's impossible that at the end of the day France, Italy and other European countries will be unable to pay back their debt. It means that we'll have big international negotiations about that. But up until now, we want to pay, and of course, for Monsieur Hollande, there is no miracle solution.." Yields on long-term French debt fell on Thursday, suggesting markets are still giving the government time. But without a buyer for their factory, that's something these Goodyear workers may not have.

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French tempers flare in fight over factory

Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 02:24