French students and police clash

  • 06/04/2016

High school students throwing stones and eggs clashed with French police who responded with teargas in Paris on Tuesday (local time) in the latest round of protests against the government's labour reform.

Several hundred gathered in the east of the capital to march towards a larger demonstration planned by unions, but the protest turned violent when students -- many of them masked -- turned on the ranks of police who were out in force.

Objects were thrown, at least one police officer was knocked to the ground and several arrests were made.

The latest demonstration follows several weeks of protests as the Socialist government attempts to pass the labour law which has split the country and its own ranks.

President Francois Hollande and his ministers say the reforms will encourage companies to hire, reducing France's high unemployment rate, but opponents say it is a dangerous attack on safeguards which protect employees.

The bill is up in front of a committee of lawmakers on Tuesday.

High school student Simon said there was more at stake than a weekly tug of war with the police.

"We're here because of our convictions. We're not just here to smash stuff up and beat up the police, we're here because we want to be heard and we'll stay here," he told Reuters TV before the violence erupted.

Marion Gandjean attends an artistic high school and she said whilst there was much to be admired in the law, it needed to offer better protection to workers.

"I think in the labour law we need as much freedom as possible so we can work as we want but you need to support employees as much as possible. We don't have any help anymore and that's the most important thing in France, it's what marks us out," she said.

Hollande's government watered down the initial labour reform proposal shortly before it was unveiled last month by ditching a clause that would have capped severance pay awards.

Economists fault the French system for creating a divide between older people with open-ended work contracts and first-timers condemned to move between short-term jobs.