Macron is battling France's labor unions and lavish worker benefits

French workers stage their first general strike of the Emmanuel Macron era, which marks his battle with France's labor unions could define his presidency
October 26, 2017, 2:31pm

French unions are warning they’ll call strikes indefinitely after President Emmanuel Macron signed into law a series of reforms targeting the country’s notorious labor rights.

Macron’s labor code “revolution”, which caps dismissal payouts and makes it easier to hire and fire workers, is aimed at kick-starting a sluggish economy and slashing the stubbornly-high unemployment rate of 9.8 percent.

But unions say France’s biblical labor rulebook, the 3,500-page Code du Travail, has been defended for generations — and they won’t see it trimmed without putting up a fight.

“We’ll strike for as long as it takes,” said Catherine Perret, of the CGT, one of France’s biggest unions. “This year will be tough, there will be more reforms. So long as there are bad laws, employees will not be happy and we’ll continue to go on strike.”

Strikes and protests have persuaded a succession of previous French leaders to back down on reforming labor laws. But Macron put major reforms at the heart of his successful election campaign.

This segment originally aired Oct. 18, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.