Protests Intensify, Spread Across France as Workers Refuse Submission
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.
“After oil refinery shutdowns, ” Euronewsreports, “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 Guardianreports “that sreet marches took place in towns and cities across France, including Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes.” Scores of people were arrested.
Railway, refineries, air traffic control, nuclear plants on strike in France; here’s Nogent-sur-Seine (AFP/Getty) pic.twitter.com/RZPFUvJriZ
— reported.ly (@reportedly) May 26, 2016
Workers on strike block the access to France’s nuclear plant in Nogent-sur-Seine. pic.twitter.com/9CaiIrgCzY
— Lorena de la Cuesta (@LorenadlaCuesta) May 26, 2016
— Ahram Online (@ahramonline) May 26, 2016
— Mete Sohtaoğlu (@metesohtaoglu) May 26, 2016
As Common Dreams previously reported:
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.
Louvre Shuts Doors as Paris Gripped by Historic Flooding
Flooding also sweeping through Germany and Austria as Texas battles its own rising waters
Paris’s Louvre Museum is among the city’s historic landmarks being shut on Friday as heavy rains caused the Seine River to swell to levels not seen in over three decades.
“I am really sorry, but we’re closed today,” one Louvre staffer told visitors, the Associated Pressreports. “We have to evacuate masterpieces from the basement.”
The Washington Postreports: “By early Friday evening, the Seine is expected to crest at approximately 21 feet, nearly 17 feet above its normal level. Authorities anticipate the water to remain high throughout the weekend but to gradually recede next week.”
The highest level the river reached was during the Great Flood of 1910, when waters rose to 8.6 meters (28.2 feet). In 1982, the river reached 6.18 meters (20.3 feet).
French President Francois Hollande on Thursday declared a natural disaster for the worst affected areas, saying, “When there are climate phenomena of such seriousness, we must all be conscious that it’s on a world scale and that we must act.”
In addition to the catastrophe the rising waters have caused Paris, the problems may be even greater beyond its borders, the Local.frreports, as “the flood defenses of towns outside the capital are less fortified and as result the water has poured in. The départements of Loiret and Seine-et-Marne to the south and southeast of Paris have been two of the worst hit areas with the floodwaters rising to higher levels than in the great flood of 1910.”
Newsweekreports, for example, that “In Nemours, south of the city, [located in the département of Seine-et-Marne] where Prime Minister Manuel Valls visited on Thursday, […] At least 3,000 out of 13,000 inhabitants were evacuated from the town.”
Environment Minister Segolene Royal warned: What’s going to be even more painful for the families who have lost their homes, the heads of companies who have lost their businesses, employees who will be unable to go to work, is that the drop in the water level will be very slow,”
“It’s a bit frightening, everything that’s happening,” said one woman from Marseille who identified herself as Odile, Reutersreports. “Not long ago they ran a flood simulation, how to evacuate museums, residents. And now it’s happening for real.”
On top of the flooding in France, Austria has also been battling flooding, while “Torrential rain, thunderstorms, and flash floods” have hit Germany as well, Bloombergreports, where they are being blamed for at least eight deaths.
The rains and flooding gripping these countries, climate risk expert Jeroen Aerts said to RFI, are due “to climate, and we have to get used to it, but also to us humans, settling into areas that we shouldn’t live.”
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. state of Texas is battling historic flooding, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott this week to declare a state of disaster for 31 counties.
The National Weather Service said this week that the the Brazos River reached record levels, cresting at nearly 54 feet Tuesday.
“About half of Texas is under flood watches or warnings,” AP reports Friday, adding that more storms could bring additional rain into Saturday.
The city with the steel tower [Paris] will be set on fire by its inhabitants and will be leveled to the ground.