September 6, 2017 / 7:06 PM / a month ago

French union says will not join far-left protest against Macron reforms

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s hardline CGT union on Wednesday said it would not join the far-left party of Jean-Luc Melenchon in Sept. 23 protests against labor reform in a sign that opposition to President Emmanuel Macron’s plan is divided.

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron (L) meets with CGT labour union leader Philippe Martinez (R) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 23, 2017. REUTERS/Michel Euler/Pool

The union will instead march next week, its leader Philippe Martinez told Paris Match magazine.

France’s second-largest union the CGT and Melenchon’s France Unbowed party are the main opponents of the plan, which includes a cap on payouts for dismissals adjudged unfair and greater freedom for employers to hire and fire. 

The largest and third-largest union, the CFDT and FO, have said they would not take to the streets.

“The CGT is independent from political parties,” Martinez said. He held a rare meeting with Melenchon on Wednesday.

Opinion polls show voters do not like the reforms overall but back most of its individual measures, including direct negotiations between bosses and their staff in small firms.

Many in the conservative Republicans party, the biggest opposition bloc in parliament, back the reform.

The CGT can mobilize tens of thousands of activists and its absence could impact turnout for Melenchon’s rally. The union lost its position in March as France’s biggest.

France Unbowed has 17 lawmakers and so can do little to block reforms in the 577-strong parliament but Melenchon is popular and attracted 19.6 percent of the votes in the first round of the presidential election in April.

The rally is a key test of the party’s capacity to mobilize voters against Macron.

Forty-five percent of voters say Melenchon’s party is Macron’s strongest opponent, more than twice the figure for the Republicans or the far-right National Front, an Ifop-Fiducial poll showed on Tuesday.

Reporting by Emile Picy; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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