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France - Labour Reform

French PM Valls forces labour law through parliament

LFrench Prime Minister Valls in parliament recently
LFrench Prime Minister Valls in parliament recently AFP

France's government invoked special constitutional powers on Tuesday to impose labour legislation that will make it easier to hire and fire staff, overriding street protesters staging their last rally of the summer and rebels within his own party.


Prime Minister Manuel Valls' decision was immediately condemned by dissidents in his party who warned they would consider seeking a vote of no confidence in the government less than a year from elections.

In response, Valls said it was the only way to beat unemployment.

"This country is too used to mass unemployment," Valls told parliament, saying he was acting in the "general interest" of the French people.

"It is not posturing, it's not intransigence," he said.

He said more than 800 amendments had been added to the legislation after "a quality debate" but that a "coalition of immobility" had stymied the reform drive aimed at reducing unemployment.

Union- and student-backed demonstrations against the reforms -- seen as too pro-business and threatening to cherished workers' rights -- began nearly four months ago, with some protests descending into violence.

MPs have 24 hours to decide whether to call a vote of no confidence in Valls' government, which the right-wing opposition has already ruled out.

It is the second time the government has used the so-called 49-3 provision for this package of reforms because it could not count on the votes of the left flank of the Socialist Party in parliament.

An opinion poll published last week found that 73 percent of the French would be "shocked" if the government used the 49-3 provision for the final passage of the reforms.

Unemployment in France stands at a stubborn 10 percent overall, but for young people the figure is closer to 25 percent. More than 3.5 million people in mainland France are registered as jobless.

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