Thousands in Paris Protest Mass Layoffs

From Reuters

Several thousand people took to the streets Saturday to demonstrate against mass layoffs, putting pressure on France's leftist government to beef up planned labor reform legislation.

The march in the capital was the latest in a series of protests sparked by public anger over recent announcements of big job losses at firms such as food group Danone, struggling airline Air Liberte and British retailer Marks & Spencer. Chanting, singing and waving brightly colored banners, the good-natured crowd walked through the east of Paris to demand that job security be given priority over profits.

Police said about 15,000 people joined the march, while organizers said more than 20,000 turned out.

The demonstration came just five days before a parliamentary vote on a bill that would make it harder for companies to lay off their workers.

Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was forced to delay the introduction of the legislation last month after coalition partners, including the Communist Party and the Greens, denounced the package as insufficient.

Discussions within the government are still taking place, and Communist and Green party leaders joined Saturday's protest.

Jospin has refused to bow to demands for a ban on layoffs at profitable firms.

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