Protests Intensify, Spread Across France as Workers Refuse Submission

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Protests Intensify, Spread Across France as Workers Refuse Submission

'What we want today is for this movement to spread,' says unionist.

 Refinery workers stepped up strikes that threaten to paralyse France weeks ahead of the Euro 2016. (Credit: AFP)

Amid ongoing blockades and intensifying clashes with police, protests against President François Hollande's controversial set of labor reforms deepened on Thursday as workers in France's nuclear plants joined the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in a nationwide strike.

Fueled by "a groundswell of public anger," as the Associated Press put it, the strikes have already shut down France's gas stations forced the country to dip into reserve petrol supplies.

"After oil refinery shutdowns, " Euronews reports, "Thursday's strikes at nuclear sites have taken the stand-off one stage further. Power cuts are not expected but tension is growing as France prepares to host the Euro 2016 football tournament in two weeks time."

Sixteen out of the countries 19 nuclear plants voted to join the strike, AP reports.

In addition to clashes in Paris, where police fired tear gas at demonstrators, the Guardian reports "that sreet marches took place in towns and cities across France, including Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes." Scores of people were arrested.

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Hollande's severely unpopular proposals allow employers to more easily fire workers and create precarious, poorly paid positions in place of permanent contracts. Critics also charge that the reforms are designed to make it easier for corporations to move jobs offshore and increase workers' hours without overtime pay.

The reforms provoked the nation's Nuit Debout ("Up All Night") protest movement to form in March, and the country has seen widespread demonstrations and mass rallies since then.

While saying that there could be "modifications, improvements" to the law, Prime Minister Manuel Valls doubled down on the reforms, saying, "changing course is out of the question."

According to Mathieu Pinault of the CGT union, ditching the law is the right move.

"What we want today is for this movement to spread," he said. "All the other sectors in France seem decided to stop the factories, to paralyze the economy, so we really think that we have a wide movement which will continue with the will to impact the economy. So, in all logic, it should force the government to withdraw this bill, which isn't at all in everyone's interest."

CGT also sparked the ire of newspaper editors on Thursday when it blocked the publication of nearly all the country's national papers after they did not submit to the union's demand that they publish an op-ed by its leader, Philippe Martinez, calling for the government to ditch its labor proposal.

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