French parliament debates labour law after violent protests
After a month of often violent protests, French legislators yesterday started to debate a hotly contested labour bill that would make it easier to lay off workers, weaken some union powers, and relax rules regulating the country's 35-hour workweek.
The reform, aimed at making France more globally competitive, faces an uphill battle. President François Hollande's Socialist government has watered it down to soothe his leftist base, but it still reportedly lacks enough support to win adoption in the National Assembly.
Amid overall frustration at France's economic stagnation, the bill has galvanised opposition from unions and a violent fringe of youth who have clashed repeatedly with police at protests.
Thousands of protesters gathered peacefully yesterday at the Invalides, a square located near the National Assembly, many shouting, "Labour law, no thank you!"
The head of the Force Ouvriere union, Jean-Claude Mailly, called on the government to withdraw the bill. The bill "destroys social rights and corresponds to the dangerous and unproven principle that we need to ease layoffs today so that employment recovers tomorrow," he said.
Labor Minister Myriam El-Khomri told Le Parisien newspaper the government would not "cede to the street".