October 9, 2017 / 7:55 PM / in 2 years

France's CGT calls another strike against labor reform, others refuse

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s hard-left CGT trade union called a third strike against President Emmanuel Macron’s overhaul of employment laws on Monday but failed to get other unions to rally behind it.

The three main unions have been divided over how to respond to the labor law reforms, with the Communist Party-rooted CGT taking to the streets while the more moderate CFDT, now France’s biggest union, and the Force Ouvriere preferring negotiations.

France was once a champion of social protest, with unions able to paralyze swathes of the economy and force ministers to back down on reforms. But hardline unions are now grappling for relevance as strikes become less frequent and less disruptive.

Macron’s government’s spent weeks negotiating with the unions during the summer over measures to give companies more power to set working conditions as well as making it easier to hire and fire workers. Last month, it signed the bill into law by decree.

“We are continuing with the fight against the labor law decrees,” Fabrice Angei, a senior CGT unionist, told reporters after a two-hour long meeting with the CFDT, FO and other unions.

The CGT hopes it can win concessions for as long as the decrees are not physically written into the labor code. Up to now, the CFDT has said it will focus on other battles ahead such as reform of the pension and unemployment insurance systems.

Monday’s meeting over labor reform action came on the eve of a separate nationwide strike by public sector workers. Strike notices have been lodged in schools, hospitals, airports and government ministries over plans to axe 120,000 jobs, freeze pay and reduce sick leave compensation.

It is the first time in a decade that all nine unions representing 5.4 million public workers have united behind a protest call and will be an important test of public appetite to protest against the reforms.

If turnout is low on Tuesday, Macron could feel emboldened as he presses ahead with revamping France’s generous unemployment insurance in a bid to spur those who lose their jobs to get back to work more quickly.

Reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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