France is on the brink of an unprecedented social and economic crisis. Like the chilling Mistral wind protests are fanning out across France against the labor reforms which are set to become law. They have in places sparked violence as hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the past few months.
Transport workers are the latest to flex their muscles in protest against what has been dubbed the “bosses law”. Despite the progress made by the government they say it is not just about pay but how their quality of life will suffer. Their demonstrations have started to impact on the country’s transport system.
“The goal is to paralyse traffic, and the lorries, and to block the economy, and to organise barricades, in order to get the message across that our mobilisation is growing,” explained local transport union official Laurent Casanova.
But despite the deepening crisis that is threatening to grip the country the government has stood firm and will not back down.
On Monday Finance Minister Michel Sapin said some of the actions, like blocking refineries and fuel depots are not “legitimate” and stressed the government will use “all tools” at its disposal to stop them.
Despite such determination the bill has become a real headache for Manuel Valls and his government. Unemployment is at 10 percent and the economy remains static. Reforming the rules of the workplace should make it easier to hire and fire.
But there are critics from across the political divide. The right contend that the reforms do not go far enough. Those on the left denounce the decline of workers’ rights.
Not all deputies from the ruling party are in agreement with the reforms and a motion of no confidence in the government went to the vote. It did not succeed and using the article 49.3 in the constitution the bill was forced through.
It will now go before the Senate but with a year to the presidential elections, President Francois Hollande has lost the support of much of the electorate and some within his own party. As his popularity ratings continue to slide can the country recover politically and economically?