French President Macron angers unionists by suggesting they are lazy

The French left is furious with President Emmanuel Macron. Last month his government announced plans for significant changes to France’s labor laws, changes which unionists see as threatening. Last week, during a two-day trip to Greece, Macron poured fuel on the fire by saying he would press on with the changes regardless of what “lazy” people back home thought. From the AFP:

The 39-year-old centrist sees revamping France’s complex labour regulations as key to tackling France’s tenaciously high unemployment rate, currently 9.5 percent — roughly twice that of Britain or Germany…

He stressed his reforms would be carried out “without brutality, with composure, with reason and pragmatism.”

The president stressed his “absolute determination” to press ahead with the scheme.

“I will not yield anything, either to the lazy, the cynics or the extreme. And I ask you to have the same determination, each day.”

Some translations substitute the word “slackers” for “the lazy.” Either way, you can imagine how the already angry unionists and assorted leftists in France reacted to that comment. From the Local:

Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the far-left party France Unbowed, who came fourth in this year’s presidential election, wasted no time in using the president’s words against him, calling on the “lazy” to join this month’s demonstrations on September 12th and 23rd against the reforms.

Failed Socialist presidential candidate Benoit Hamon, who also backs Tuesday’s action, lambasted Macron for his “insulting” remarks in Athens, which he said were “unworthy” of a head of state.

“Lazy people are the independently wealthy, who don’t need to work for a living,” he told reporters. “And a lot of independently wealthy picked Emmanuel Macron as their champion.”

For his part, Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union, called Macron’s comments “scandalous”.

The General Confederation of Labour (CGT) union had already planned to have major street protests against the labor law changes starting tomorrow. Now the expectation is those protests will be larger and louder than previously expected. From the Australian:

Martine Aubry, the former Socialist employment minister who introduced the 35-hour working week in 2000, was also indignant. “And now [for Mr Macron], the French are lazy. What contempt, what ignorance,” she said.

La Depeche du Midi, a regional daily newspaper, summed up the general sense of consternation at Mr Macron’s words: “If Emmanuel Macron had wanted to swell the ranks of … the demonstration … he could not have found a better way.”

As Jazz pointed out last month, the shine has quickly come off Macron just a few months after his election. Polls show a majority are now dissatisfied with him. The only solution to his political problem is to follow through and deliver on the promise of an improved economy. Former President Hollande failed to do that and ended his tenure with the lowest approval ever recorded for a French President.

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