Workers at 19 nuclear power plants across France will on Thursday join the nationwide protests over a controversial labor reform bill that will be tabled at the Senate later this month. Earlier, on Wednesday, striking transportation workers halted nearly half of the country’s train services even as a strike at oil refineries continued to crimp supplies to petrol stations.
“All power production sites voted to strike from Thursday. All 19 nuclear plants voted for the strike. We will start cutting power output tonight from 1900 GMT,” Laurent Langlard, a French trade union official, told Reuters Wednesday.
The industrial unrest in France, which gathered steam last month, is being spearheaded by the powerful trade union CGT. Protesters have demanded that the country’s Socialist government withdraw the controversial “bosses’ law” that has already been passed by the Parliament’s lower house without a vote.
A key area of disagreement relates to a provision that gives more flexibility to companies in deviating from France’s 35-hour workweek.
“There is no shame in political leaders going back on their decision when they have made a mistake, to create the conditions to discuss social progress in this country,” CGT leader Olivier Mateu reportedly said.
However, France’s Socialist President François Hollande, who says that the bill aims to reduce unemployment — currently at 10.5 percent — and make the country more business-friendly, has refused to back down in the face of protests and despite being accused of getting “everything wrong from the start.”
“The text assures the best performance for businesses and offers new rights to employees,” Hollande told French newspaper Sud-Ouest, adding that the bill “will not be withdrawn.”
The nationwide strikes, which have seen protesters clash with police in the streets of Paris, have also sparked concerns that tourism to the country, already dented by last year’s attacks by the Islamic State group, may be hurt further.
“The start of 2016 is still feeling the disastrous consequences of the attacks in 2015,” the French tourism board said in a statement. “The scenes of guerrilla-type action in the middle of Paris, beamed around the world, reinforce the feeling of fear and misunderstanding.”