France's CGT alone among unions in labour reform strike call

Two other leading unions sounding more conciliatory on talks with government

France's CGT alone among unions in labour reform strike call
French CGT union flags are seen at the Whirlpool company plant in the northern city of Amiens, France, on June 14. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) — France's hard-line CGT labor union looked isolated in its call for a September strike over President Emmanuel Macron's plans to ease labour regulations, as two other leading unions sounded a more conciliatory note on talks with the government.

Macron promises sweeping social and economic reforms to create jobs and spur economic growth and with a commanding majority in parliament any opposition to the reforms is most likely to come from the unions and the street.

Macron's centrists have embarked on a series of meetings with unions about the proposals designed to give companies more say over working conditions, including making it easier to hire and fire employees, and is seeking special legislative powers to push the reform through parliament without lengthy negotiations.

The CFDT, France's largest private-sector union, on Wednesday said it did not share the Communist-rooted CGT's stance on a nationwide walkout on Sept. 12 at this stage.

"There is no agreement on this type of action," CFDT leader Laurent Berger told Europe 1 radio. "The law will be on the table at the beginning of September, (when) we will decide on our position."

The head of the FO union, traditionally more in tune with the hardline CGT, sounded a positive note about the consultations with the government.

"Right now things are going in the right direction," FO chief Jean-Claude Mailly told Le Monde in an interview published on Wednesday.

Macron's Republic on the Move party holds a strong majority in parliament after this month's election. His government has said it will ask parliament in the coming weeks to allow it to push through the labor reforms by decree.

"The labor code no longer reflects the reality of today," government spokesman Christophe Castaner told a news conference.

Castaner said the aim of easing labor regulations was to haul the jobless rate down to around 7 percent by the end of the government's five-year mandate in 2022, from near 10 percent now.

The CGT has promised a tough fight against the reforms, which it sees as an attack on hard-won labour rights.

It won support from Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the hard-left France Unbowed party which saw growing support during the election campaign.

"We must join this movement, we must resist, we have a duty to defend the labor code," Melenchon told Europe 1.

The CGT said on Tuesday the reopening of schools in September should be the time "to act on our discontent and to work on economic and social change."

The moderate CFDT has said strikes and demonstrations should be a last resort. 

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