French President François Hollande pledged Friday he would press on with his labor reforms, despite strikes that have paralyzed the nation.
In a press conference on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Japan, Hollande said, “I will keep going because I think these are good reforms,” adding that his government would ensure “freedom of movement” for citizens in the middle of rail strikes and fuel blockades.
Addressing the unrest, he said, “We can’t accept that there are unions that dictate the law,” adding, “As head of state, I want this reform. It fits with everything we have done for four years. I want us to go right to the end.”
The labor standoff is over a reform that aims to boost hiring by making France's 35-hour workweek more flexible. It is reportedly set to make it easier to fire workers and in turn weaken the power of the unions. Some labor groups say the measures will remove the protection guaranteed to workers and mainly benefit big businesses.
Union activists have staged months of protests and targeted the strategic fuel industry, causing gasoline shortages. The head of the French Union of Petroleum Industries, Francis Duseux, told the Associated Press that the country's two main oil ports were blocked Thursday and only two of France's eight refineries were working.
The Thursday protests saw 153,000 people take to the streets overall, officials said, though union leaders put the number at 300,000.