French protesters clash with police over labour reforms

PARIS: Clashes broke out on the streets of France on Thursday during fresh protests over labour reforms, just a day after beleaguered President Francois Hollande was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over constitutional changes.

A nationwide strike shut the Eiffel Tower, disrupted train services and saw dozens of schools closed or barricaded by students.

Riot police used tear gas against stone-throwing protesters in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes, among 200 demonstrations drawing tens of thousands people nationwide despite rainy weather.

Police said around 10 youths were arrested in Paris, where demonstrators threw firecrackers and yellow paint at security forces.

Adding to Hollande’s miserable week, a separate strike by air traffic controllers threatened headaches for thousands of passengers, while drivers faced more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) of tailbacks on motorways around Paris.

The Socialist government is desperate to push through reforms to France’s controversial labour laws, billed as a last-gasp attempt to boost the flailing economy before next year’s presidential election.

But it has faced a wave of often violent protests by unions and students angry over plans to make it easier for struggling companies to fire workers, even though the reforms have already been diluted once in a bid to placate employers.