Strikes In France Spread Throughout The Country: French Leaders Label Conflict A ‘Fight To The Death’

Labor strikes in France, which erupted among petrol refinery workers and have spread to the rails and nuclear power plants, have grown as union leaders and the government dig in for what one politician says is a fight “to the death.”

France’s CGT union, looking to recapture elements of its militant past, is leading the action in solidarity with several other workers unions. CGT actions have included setting up roadblocks leading to depots and refineries, and clashes with police have been reported in Paris.

A man runs through tear gas during a demonstration against a labor law bill, Thursday, May 19, 2016 in Paris. France is facing tense weeks of strikes and other union actions against the law, allowing longer workdays and easier layoffs, and which has met fierce resistance in Parliament and in the streets. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Members working at the nation’s nuclear power plants also voted on Wednesday to participate in the strike.

The strikes come in the aftermath of controversial labor reforms proposed by the Socialist Party government aimed at reducing France’s high unemployment, which currently sits at 10 percent

Tensions rose after the details of the reforms came to light including among them alterations to France’s 35-hour work week, more business control to reduce pay, more flexibility to terminate workers, and the ability to negotiate holidays and other types of leave, like maternity.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez speaks on the decision to strike.

“Was gutting the labor code in (French president Francois) Hollande’s program?… The government has turned its back on its commitments and it is paying the consequences.”

Martinez’s argument is based on the fact that many of the changes disrupt highly regulated benefits that French unions fought for in past strikes, like several types of leave and termination policies, and have become pillars of French society. The labor bill was also passed using constitutional procedures which did not require parliamentary approval.

Union leaders feel that the labor reforms give too much of an advantage to the employers, reducing worker rights and protections. However, business leaders say that the reforms don’t go far enough.