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French labour reform finally forced through parliament

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) kisses Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri (C) after forcing the labour law through parliament
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) kisses Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri (C) after forcing the labour law through parliament Reuters//Philippe Wojazer

France's Socialist government for the third time rammed its controversial labour reform through parliament without debate on Wednesday, meaning that it would become law on Thursday evening. Opponents of the bill have vowed to continue to fight it with strikes and demonstrations and MPs are to appeal about the lack of parliamentary debate.


Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday for the third time invoked the 49.3 enabling clause that allows the government to declare the bill passed without parliamentary debate.

Previous motions of no confidence, which could have blocked the legislation and would have plunged the government into crisis, failed to win the necessary number of votes and no motion was tabled for what should have been the final reading in the National Assembly.

Although the last stages of the political battle of the bill has been overshadowed by the Nice attacks and the consequent extension of the state of emergency, right-wing MPs, backed by hard-left ones and possibly some Socialist dissidents are to appeal to the Constitutional Council against the government's "non-respect of parliamentary debate".

Valls's 'great reform'

Valls hailed the bill as "a great reform", which was the result of "a solid compromise with reformist youth and trade unions", a reference to unions like the CFDT that accepted the government's changes to its own initial draft.

President François Hollande declared it consistent with his "values of a man of the left".

Opponents vow to fight on

The right-wing-controlled Senate on Tuesday rejected the law after its proposals to restore many of the initial proposals and render it tougher on labour were turned down.

Fifty-six MPs, including Socialist dissidents, Communists and Left Party members and Ecologists, published a declaration in the JDD newspaper on Wednesday declaring that the battle against the law "has only just begun" and claiming that it would make France's labour legislation "more complex and less favourable to employees".

With opinion polls showing a majority of French people opposed to the reform, the CGT and FO unions vowed to continue to campaign against it, declaring that the suspension of debate showed that the government had "lost the ideological battle".

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