French press review 26 May 2016


Strikes and protests related to the reform of labour law once again dominate the French papers' front pages. In several cases strikes have killed off the papers's print editions completely. Elsewhere, there's a call for the extradition and trial of Blaise Compaoré, former president of Burkina Faso, currently living in exile in Côte d'Ivoire. And a brilliant solution to the problem of funding French scientific research!


The website of right-wing Le Figaro says members of the CGT trade union group have prevented the printing of today's edition.

La Croix hasn't appeared either: the main story on the Catholic paper's website is headlined "Can the CGT paralyse the country?"

Left-leaning Libération's front page appears to answer that question will the single word "Blocked".

Who and what is likely to be affected?

Apart from fewer newspapers, this eighth day of protest action will affect oil refineries, transport, the docks and nuclear power stations.

Le Figaro suggests that the strikers are running out of steam in the public transport sector, noting that less than 11 percent of employees were on strike yesterday, down from 15 percent last week and 24 percent at the end of March. The nation has seen no fewer than five strikes by railworkers in less than three months.

Some flights have been cancelled at one Paris airport; the strike by dockers and port workers will continue tomorrow, in protest at "police repression" during the action to reopen a petrol depot earlier this week. Personnel at all 19 French nuclear electricity generation sites are on strike but that will result only in reduced output, not in power cuts.

Le Monde, which was successfully printed yesterday, says the government has refused all talk of compromise, with President François Hollande claiming the struggle now has less to do with the details of the changes to labour law and more to do with the attitude of trade unions. "We want responsible unions," says the president, "not trouble-makers."

"The CGT denounces . . ."

Communist L'Humanité, which has also avoided strike action, says the central problem is that the French people dislikes the fact that the government forced the legislation through, without proper parliamentary debate.

The same paper gives a page to Philippe Martinez, top man at the main striking union, the CGT, where he says that the demands of modernity call for social progress, not a regressive labour law. Which doesn't get us much further along the road to understanding the real basis of this conflict, which now appears to have moved dangerously from issues to personalities.

In a fairly feisty performance in which half a dozen paragraphs begin with the ringing expression "The CGT denounces a government . . .," Martinez repeats his conviction that the new laws give too much freedom to the employers, damaging the position of workers in the name of creating job opportunities.

French dole queues get shorter, for the second month running!

The good news is that there has been a further decrease in the number of French unemployed.

For the second successive month, April saw the number of those out of work drop by 19,900, the first such succession in over five years. The March figures were even more impressive, with a drop of 60,000.

Sadly, there are still over three-and-a-half million people without work in France.

Should Blaise Compaoré be extradicted form Cote d'Ivoire?

On inside pages, L'Humanité calls for the extradition and trial of Blaise Compaoré, former president of Burkina Faso, currently living in exile in Côte d'Ivoire, a haven to which he was flown by the French air force. The Communist party paper says Compaoré should be returned to Ouagadougou for trial over his role in the 1987 assassination of his predecessor, Thomas Sankara.

The extradition of Beau Blaise may not be easy to organise. He is now an Ivorian citizen, thanks to the intervention of Alassane Ouattara, and Côte d'Ivoire does not extradite its own nationals.

A solution worthy of a Nobel Prize?

On the anger of the scientific community over government plans to cut nearly 200 million euros from the research budget, Le Monde reports that the finance ministry continues to insist that the cuts are necessary but has promised to increase grants to the affected institutes to cover the amount they'll lose. Could the same logic be brought to bear on the row over labour law reform?

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