June 9, 2016 / 8:12 AM / 2 years ago

French finance minister tells workers: No sense in strikes as growth picks up

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s Finance Minister, Michel Sapin, urged workers to end a wave of nationwide strikes, saying on Thursday the walkouts risked undermining signs of stronger growth and falling unemployment.

Striking employees of Roissy airport hold French CGT labour union flags during a demonstration against the labour reforms law at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Roissy, near Paris, France, June 7, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

Rubbish piled up in parts of Paris as stoppages and pickets blocked waste treatment plants in one of a series of protests in different industries against plans to loosen labor market regulations, a reform the government hopes will help lower the jobless rate further from 10 percent.

Sapin said the latest data showing 159,000 jobs were created in the first three months of 2016, more than in any quarter since early 2008.

“Unemployment is falling. This is not the moment to throw a spanner into the works with growth picking up,” Sapin told France Info radio.

On the eve of the month-long Euro 2016 soccer championship, the government was working overtime to thrash out a deal on working conditions with the SNCF state rail company and end a 9-day strike.

Workers, many of them from the hardline CGT union, briefly blockaded France’s largest wholesale food market south of Paris while Air France pilots planned a four-day stoppage starting on Saturday, the day after the soccer contest opens.

Despite signs that broader strike action against labor law reform spearheaded by the hardline CGT union was running out of steam, train services remained disrupted as millions of foreign visitors and soccer fans prepare for the month-long tournament that kicks off on Friday evening.

Asked about the consequences for growth, Sapin said: “Broadly speaking, the strikes are having no impact.”

He reiterated that the government would not cave in on its proposals to make hiring and firing easier and hand companies more power to negotiate pay and work conditions locally, which could weaken the influence of unions in the work place.

“We are now witnessing strikes that make no sense,” Sapin said.

Reporting by Yann Le Guernigou and Richard Lough; Editing by Brian Love and Andrew Heavens

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