France prepares for rail strikes protesting labor reform bill

 France-prepares-for-rail-strikes-protesting-labor-reform-bill.  PARIS,  A railway strike in France begins Tuesday, as President Francois Hollande insists a labor reform bill, the cause of the labor unrest, will not be withdrawn.

Protesters face security forces as violence erupted during a demonstration against the government’s proposed labor reform law in Paris, on 26 May 2016. A rail strike is planned for this week. Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo

The bill includes provisions giving employers more flexibility to lay off employees and negotiate directly with employees on holiday, maternity and special leaves, now strictly regulated in France. It also gives employers more flexibility to negotiate work schedules.

The bill was the focus of violent demonstrations across France last week.

The national railway strike, to begin late Tuesday, will impact high-speed TGV trains, the Transilien commuter lines and Metro lines in Paris, intercity routes and rail travel to other European countries. It could also have an effect on the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, which France hosts next week, and Paris tourism executives have warned the threats of strikes are reducing the annual summer influx of visitors.

Three major unions representing rail workers promised a “strong mobilization” for the strike. If the strike has an impact, more unions are expected to join. Citizens’ support for the unions is at 46 percent, a poll published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche indicated.

The labor reform bill passed the lower house of parliament without a vote. A national “day of action,” with more strikes expected, is planned for June 14, when the French senate is expected to vote on the bill.

“The text (of the bill) assures the best performance for businesses and offers new rights to employees,” Hollande said in an interview, the BBC reported, an indication he has no intention of backing down or modifying the legislation.

In separate issues, Air France pilots and air-traffic controllers are also considering strike actions.

By Ed Adamczyk