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France - Protests

French civil servants take to the streets against proposed law to change their status

Hundreds of protesters hit the streets to push-back against a proposed bill, Paris May 9, 2019
Hundreds of protesters hit the streets to push-back against a proposed bill, Paris May 9, 2019 AFP / Thomas SAMSON
3 min

Civil servants across France protested on Thursday against a proposed government bill to modernize their status. The bill is due to be reviewed by the National Assembly on 13 May.


The proposed bill wants to simplify the use of ‘contract workers’ to help the state be more reactive to short-term employee problems, such as staff shortages.

Following a review by the National Assembly in mid-May, the Council of Ministers is due to examine the reform come 27 March next year.

Reforms ‘disturbing’

Such reforms proposed by the government are being called ‘disturbing’ by the unions.

In response to a call to strike from France’s main public service unions (CGT, CFDT, FO, FSU, Solidaires, Unsa, FA-FP, CFE-CGC, CFTC -- which represent 5.5 million state employees), workers took to the streets across France on Thursday.

Between 3,500 to 4000 demonstrators took the main boulevard in Marseille, while over in Lyon, local authorities counted some 3,300 people.

Down in the southern city of Nice, six percent of schools were closed, along with 60 percent of canteens and 40 percent of daycares closed while staff workers went out to protest the reforms.

Divisive legislation

The proposed legislation is part of a target to rid the state of 120,000 jobs by 2022.

This is being touted as a solution to the Yellow Vests demands for tax reductions.

In response, the Unions argue that ‘contract staff’ (similar to freelance status) will not have the same rights as full-time employees.

They also say that such staff will also not receive proper training.

Francette Popineau, the secretary-general of SNUipp-FSU (one of the main primary school unions) notes that teachers in particular are very concerned about their future in light of these proposals.

French civil servants are protesting against the proposed government bill aimed to “modernise” their status. The National Assembly is scheduled to examine the bill on May 13.

Hospital staff are also concerned, with many hanging signs in front of hospitals stating 'the end is near' as staff cannot be expected to keep up with demand along with further cuts.

“We have reached a point of no return” with services “exploding” says Patrick Bourdillon of the CGT Union

Only the first step

The unions warned that Thursday’s mass strike was only “the first step” in a “long-term” movement to stop the proposed reforms.

They called on the government to open fresh negotiations.

But Secretary of State Olivier Dussopt was dismissive of the union’s demands, confirming Thursday morning on Cnews that there would be no withdrawal or renegotiation of this reform.

The government wants to have the bill formally adopted before the summer for it to come into effect on January 1, 2020.

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