Tens of thousand of demonstrators turned out on the streets of Paris on Saturday to join firebrand far-Left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the latest day of protests against President Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping reforms of the labour code.
“The battle is not over, it’s just beginning,” Mr Mélenchon told cheering supporters at a rally on the Place de la République which march organisers said gathered 150,000 people but which police said had drawn just 30,000.
The centrist president formally signed the labour decrees – making hiring and firing easier and giving companies more power over working conditions – on Friday in a ceremony broadcast live on television.
Mr Macron argues that the changes – the cornerstone of his programme aimed at boosting entrepreneurship – will help bring down France’s stubbornly high unemployment, which at 9.6 percent is double that of Britain or Germany.
The measures are only the first part of a series of reforms that will also amend the unemployment benefit and pension systems, changes that may provoke more protests than changes to labour law.
The march on Saturday – which came just two days after 130,000 people demonstrated across France – was seen as test of whether resistance to Mr Macron’s reforms was holding up or would fizzle out.
Mr Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party was also hoping for a show of force to reinforce its credentials as Mr Macron’s strongest political opponent.
One young woman, Sophie Tissier, who turned out along with her five-month-old baby son to listen to Mr Mélenchon speak at the Place de la République, carried a banner saying “Macron is not my president.”
“The way these (labour reforms) were pushed through is not democratic,” she said, noting that the president had pushed them through by decree in order to avoid the lengthy debates in parliament usually need to pass a bill.
Asked if it was not too late, given that the bills have already been signed off on, she replied: “No, I want millions on the street to fight this.”