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French Labour Minister in bill reform torment

French Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri attends a visit at the Solvay plant in the Chalampe industrial site near Mulhouse, France, February 22, 2016
French Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri attends a visit at the Solvay plant in the Chalampe industrial site near Mulhouse, France, February 22, 2016 REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
2 min

French Labour minister Myriam El Khomri has returned to work after being hospitalized for concussion. Speculation is rife that her 'malaise' may be due to the storm of criticism she's facing over plans to reform France's labour laws. On Wednesday, the biggest teaching union announced it would join a nationwide strike on March 9 against the bill.


"Some people think that I have several handicaps, that I'm young, that I'm a woman....I am strong, motivated and determined", Myriam El Khomri stated on Wednesday after being released from hospital.

The Labour minister was forced to cancel her official duties on Tuesday after "banging her head while getting out of the shower", her entourage said.

But El Khomri tweeted that "everything is fine," and president François Hollande also chimed in inisisting her fall was a simple "domestic accident" and that she would be back at work in no time.

The fact that the French president felt he had to intervene is telling.

The Socialist party is facing down a storm of criticism over its bill to reform the country's labour laws following angry reactions from unions, students and even members within its own party.

So much so that several newspapers on Wednesday were speculating on whether or not El Khomri's accident was really a benign incident or the first signs of burnout.

Her fall came after an online petition demanding she abandon the project sine dei,  received more than 785,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.

And on March 9, leading French workers and student unions will stage a massive, nationwide strike to denounce the labour reforms.

Critics say the measures would dismantle job guarantees for workers, forcing employees to accept longer hours for the same or less pay. Or allow employers to quickly fire staff if they refuse.

Protectionists of France's beloved welfare system see it as a lurch towards pro-business policies. Lille Mayor Martine Aubry warned the reform would lead to “France’s long-term weakness”, and said she was ready to quit the Socialist Party’s executive committee.

The grumbling has forced Prime minister Manuel Valls to delay parliamentary debate on the reform. On Wednesday, he accepted proposals to hold a seminary with Socialist party members to "improve" the text. Although his critics accuse him of back-peddling. A charge he denies.

Meanwhile El Khomri is due to resume negotiations with workers and employers' unions today, although she will have to do it without her special adviser. Pierre Jacquemain quit his job denouncing a "historical betrayal" of a reform which goes everything the Left believes in.

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