French trade union chief slams UK and US over lack of workers' rights

French trade union chief slams UK and US over lack of workers' rights

France does not want to treat its workers like the UK and US, with zero hours contracts and no protection for the unemployed, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT, France's biggest trade union, has said.




Those controversial reforms cut into the power of France's trade unions and made it easier for firms to lay off staff.

Martinez believes Macron is influenced by the "Anglo-Saxon" model but he does not want to see the same situation in France. 


"Anglo-Saxon countries like the UK and US are Macron's model...his inspiration," Martinez told a gathering of journalists from the Anglo American Press Association including The Local. 



"I saw an excellent Ken Loach film recently, 'I, Daniel Blake'. And if you think that is an example of a modern society...well," he shrugged. 

"We don't want to have zero-hours contracts and no rights for the unemployed," he said.

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Photo: AFP

Controversial zero-hour contracts stipulate that the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours while the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered.

"Macron is trying to conduct politics away from the unions," Martinez said. "Political parties have never been as distant from the world of workers as they are now."


Martinez also had a dig at China, saying: "We don't want to be like China where children are working in factories". 

He went on to question why Macron hadn't brought up this, and other human rights' issues, on his recent trip there, instead of just "giving them a horse."

The formidable union leader has been at the helm of the far-left (once Communist) CGT since 2015. 

And since then he has done his best to act as the thorn in the side of the French presidency. 

However, in 2017 the once hugely powerful CGT failed to stop the reform of France's enshrined labour code, as President Emmanuel Macron swept to power and started carrying out the dramatic changes to workers' rights that he had promised.

These included giving small companies in particular more freedom to negotiate working conditions with their employees, rather than being bound by industry-wide collective agreements negotiated by trade unions. 


In 2016 when socialist president Francois Hollande was attempting to reform France's labour code, changes were ditched due to pressure from the unions as demonstrations caused disruption across the country.