Europe

France labour reform: Hundreds of thousands protest

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Media captionThere were violent scenes in Paris over proposed labour reforms

Hundreds of thousands of people have turned out for nationwide protests in France against labour reforms.

More than 100 people were arrested after clashes with police, the interior ministry said.

Organisers said 1.2 million people took to the streets but official figures put it at about 400,000.

The government says the reforms making it easier to lay off workers will boost the economy by encouraging firms to hire more staff.

But the proposals, which also include changes to France's 35-hour working week, have been bitterly opposed by students and unions as stripping away vital protections.

It is the fourth such protest in the space of a month and the largest yet.

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Image caption Unions and students have been infuriated by the planned reforms
Image copyright AFP
Image caption In Rennes, riot police used tear gas

Clashes between protesters and police were reported in the cities of Nantes, Rennes and Toulouse.

Thirteen members of the security forces were injured, according to the interior ministry.

But the protests were mostly peaceful. "We're here to fight for our rights otherwise we will lose everything," said one demonstrator in Paris.

"For us who are quite old it's ok but the worst is for our children and grandchildren. They will be left with nothing."

A strike disrupted travel, closed schools and shut the Eiffel Tower.

Dozens of fights were also cancelled because of a separate strike from air traffic controllers.

In another development, a police officer was detained after being seen allegedly punching a teenager on the sidelines of a protest last week. Footage of the incident went viral.

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Image caption In Paris, 10 people were arrested following clashes
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption "Youth in the struggle" reads a banner in the southern city of Marseille

The protests further pile pressure on President Francois Hollande, who has said he will not run again if he cannot bring down France's 10% unemployment level.

On Wednesday he was forced to backtrack on a plan to change the constitution to strip militants convicted of terror attacks of French citizenship after the two houses of parliament failed to agree on it.

Parliament is due to vote on the labour reforms late next month or in early May.

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