• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Under-fire French government waters down labour reforms
Protests against labour reforms have put the government under pressure. Photo: AFP

Under-fire French government waters down labour reforms

AFP/The Local · 14 Mar 2016, 16:43

Published: 14 Mar 2016 16:43 GMT+01:00
Updated: 14 Mar 2016 16:43 GMT+01:00

The French government presented a watered-down version of its contested labour market reform on Monday and Prime Minister Manuel Valls appealed to unions to give it their backing.

Valls said he was hoping for a "new start" for the reforms which he said the Socialist government had modified after listening to the "questions and concerns" raised by the original text.

One of the key concessions made to opponents of the bill was an agreement to scrap a plan to limit the amount of compensation a worker could claim if they were found to have been sacked unfairly.

The limits the government wanted to place on compensation pay outs will now simply be used as guidance but judges will reserve the right to order a company to pay a sacked worker more, if they so wish.

In a significant change from the original text, Valls said small and medium-sized companies would not be able to unilaterally introduce flexible work practices into their working week.

In another slight modification judges will be allowed to investigate whether multi-nationals are faking "financial difficulties" of the French subsidiaries just to be able to lay off workers. If they are then the lay-offs will be re-classed as "unfair dismissals".

The reforms have divided the Socialist government, pitting President Francois Hollande and Valls against a range of left-wing forces 14 months before the president faces a re-election bid. On Friday, Hollande ruled out the possibility of scrapping the reforms but admitted that they "could be improved".

 (Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri speaking French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Monday, ahead of talks. Photo: AFP)

The reforms are part of efforts to combat stubborn unemployment in a country where employers are loath to take on permanent workers because of stiff obstacles to laying them off in lean times.

Story continues below…

France, the eurozone's second largest economy, is under pressure from the European Commission to bring down labour costs as well as its 10.2 joblessness rate. The reform spells out simple conditions such as falling orders or sales, or operating losses, as sufficient cause for shedding staff.

However, it sparked demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of people last week, with young people at the forefront of the protests. Opponents fear it will erode the cast-iron job security that French workers on full-time contracts enjoy.

Valls and President Francois Hollande argue the reform is aimed at freeing up the job market and reducing youth unemployment, but critics say it is another example of the government taking decisions more in tune with a right-wing agenda.

The proposals were initially set to be submitted to the cabinet last Wednesday, but in the face of the opposition last week this date was shifted to March 24th.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Euro 2016
France survive Irish scare to make quarter-final
Antoine Griezmann scored two second-half goals. Photo: AFP

Antoine Griezmann broke Irish hearts with two second-half goals as France came from behind to claim a 2-1 win over ten-man Republic of Ireland and move into the Euro 2016 quarter-finals on Sunday.

'Transatlantic trade deal not good for EU': French PM
"I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement. This agreement is not on track," Valls said. Photo: AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday blasted a planned EU-US trade treaty, saying the ambitious deal was against "EU interests."

Euro 2016
Five things you didn't know about France and Ireland
Photos: AFP

France and Ireland have more than a few interesting connections. Here are our favourite five.

Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
Photo: AFP

The Brexit vote has prompted a mixed bag of reactions from the French public.

Opinion - Brexit seen from abroad
'Today it's hard not to feel ashamed to be British'
Photo: AFP

Apologies France, we may have just messed up your country too.

Brexit
French in UK: 'Brexit vote is clearly against foreigners'
The French Bookshop in London's Kensington. Photo: AFP

Spare a thought for the French people living in the UK right now. They didn't even get to vote.

Hollande: Brexit vote 'a grave test for Europe'
Photo: AFP

President Francois Hollande said on Friday that he already regrets the UK's "painful choice".

Brexit - Property
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
A house of sale in La-Faute-sur-Mer (Vendée). Photo: Frank Perry/AFP

The dream move to France may have to be put on hold or simply dropped.

Brexit
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Brits won't be forced home, of course, but are forced to live in limbo for a while. Photo: AFP

So what happens now for Brits in France? Nothing too dramatic, but a lot of uncertainty amid legal limbo.

Brexpats on Brexit
Brexit: Life for Brits in France will get more complicated
Will France still be paradise for British expats after a Brexit? Photo: Simon/FlickR

After Britain voted to leave the EU, here's a look at what an EU legal expert had to say about the possible knock on effects for expats in France.

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
International
French police appear unprepared for hooligan threat at Euro 2016
Sport
An A to Z guide of what to expect in France for Euro 2016
Sport
France bans matches from being shown on cafe terraces
National
Readers' views: 'If Brexit happens I'm becoming French just to stay in EU'
Technology
Should this be the new Metro map for Paris?
2,726
jobs available