Europe News

Sacre bleu! Now France's bosses are revolting


Thousands of French bosses took to the streets on Monday at the start of a week of coordinated protests against the Socialist government's regulations and high taxes.

Cities including Paris, Marseille and Toulouse saw around 4,000 owners of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) pound the streets in protest.

Demonstrators brandished signs saying "Free Our Businesses" and wore construction type neon clothing to draw attention to their plight, the France 24 news agency reported.

The last time French employers' associations marched in protest was in 2000, when the then right-wing government introduced the 35-hour working week. This time around, the protests are part of a week of action called by a number of French employers' groups to protest against the socialist government's lack of reform of rigid labor laws that business leaders say are hurting their businesses by making it hard to hire and fire employees.

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Concerns center on three main issues: Compulsory payments that businesses have to make for workers doing certain shifts, rules stating that they cannot employ part-timers for less than 24 hours a week and new regulations that will force companies of less than 250 employees to inform their workers before they negotiate the sale of a business to new owners.

MARTIN BUREAU | AFP | Getty Images

France's government has come under fire for failing to reignite the country's weak economic activity. More people are now unemployed in the country than ever before and the government has clashed with trade unions in its efforts to reform and liberalize the labor market.

Unions also up in arms

While one employers' group plans to publish an open letter of complaint to French President Francois Hollande in around 60 newspapers this week, the French Business Confederation (MEDEF) which has 750,000 member companies, plans a week of meetings and a social media campaign to highlight the concerns, France 24 said.

Only the General Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (CGPME), a private, independent organisation for employers, has called on its members to take to the streets, however.

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The organization says on its website that "the 2,908,500 SMEs registered in France represent approximately 80 percent of employment in the private sector, 45 percent of exports and 63 percent of investments."

Showing their discontent at the protests, the CFE-CGC workers' union said that Hollande's government had already provided tax breaks of around 41 million euros ($50 million) to business owners.

France 24 contributed reporting to this story.