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General strike in France to reject labour reform

PARIS — Some French train drivers, teachers and others are on strike to reject a government reform relaxing the 35-hour workweek and other labour rules.

The strike is not affecting Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, but 20 per cent of flights at Paris' Orly airport have been cancelled. The strike also affects schools, public hospitals and state-owned broadcasters.

State railway company SNCF has warned of disruptions to national and regional train traffic. International lines to London and Brussels should not be affected.

Paris' Eiffel tower is closed all day. The company operating the monument said in a statement there are not enough staff to open the tower with "sufficient security and reception conditions".

Student organizations and employee unions have joined to call for protests across France to reject the Socialist government's bill, which they consider as badly damaging hard-fought worker protections.

The Socialist government and the businesses claim the reforms would help the economy by making it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.

The proposal technically maintains the 35-hour workweek but allows companies to organize alternative working times. Those include a workweek of up to 48 hours and 12-hour days. In "exceptional circumstances," employees could work up to 60 hours a week.

French labour minister Myriam El Khomri said Thursday on BFM television that "it is necessary that people express their worries. Some trade unions are using the right to be on strike and demonstrate and it is legitimate".

France's unemployment rate is hovering at 10 per cent.

The Associated Press

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