• France's news in English
French public ready to fight 'ball and chain' labour reforms
The French public are ready to fight unpopular labour reforms. Photo: AFP

French public ready to fight 'ball and chain' labour reforms

AFP · 7 Mar 2016, 07:43

Published: 07 Mar 2016 07:43 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France's Socialist government will hold this week a round of negotiations aimed at salvaging its proposed labour reforms,
as it faces fierce opposition against the draft bill and the spectre of street protests on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday pledged to make "improvements" to the text, which has driven a wedge within the Socialist Party itself, infuriated labour unions and prompted a massively followed online petition.

Valls, who will on Monday launch a round of meetings with union and business leaders, told the weekly Journal du Dimanche that the draft should be "improved" and "completed", but added: "What we cannot do is maintain the status quo."

But the Force Ouvriere union said a revision was out of the question, repeating its demand that the proposed reforms be scrapped altogether.

"It's not one, two or a few articles that need to be modified but the entire text that won't do," Pascal Pavageau, the FO's economy pointman, said Sunday.

Rather than "negotiate the weight of the ball and the length of the chain... we call on (Valls) to withdraw this text," he said.

Unveiled in mid-February, the El Khomri law named after Economy Minister Myriam El Khomri is designed to give employers more flexibility in hiring and firing, but critics say it unduly threatens job security.

On Sunday Valls insisted: "This labour law means more transparency for businesses and more protection for employees."

And he dismissed suggestions last week that the government could push the reforms through by resorting to a manoeuvre to bypass parliament, saying the law would be "brought to fruition with the necessary changes".

The prime minister faces strong opposition from the left flank of his own Socialist Party, while seven in 10 French are opposed to the changes, according to a poll.

A number of organisations including youth groups have called demonstrations for Wednesday and later in the month to protest against the plans, which many think will fail to create jobs.

READ ALSO: How working life in France is set to change (for the worse?)

(The online petition against El Khomri's reforms that has garnered over one million signatures. Photo: AFP)

A million signatures

At 25 percent, youth unemployment in France is among the highest in Europe.

The online petition titled "Labour Law: No Thanks", initiated by 35-year-old feminist Caroline de Haas, has attracted more than a million signatures, but it is a wild card in the mix, since it is unclear what will come of the initiative.

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.

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.

Story continues below…

Currently French companies have to justify in court plans to shed workers due to an economic downturn, a process they say makes them reluctant to hire in the first place.

The reform spells out simple conditions such as falling orders or sales, or operating losses, as sufficient cause for shedding staff.

The law would also allow employers to work around unions and negotiate working conditions such as overtime pay and maximum working hours directly with their employees.

It would also cap the total amount of damages claims they may have to pay in case of litigation.

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

University and high school student groups as well as labour unions have called for protests on Wednesday, which has also been designated for work stoppages by the Paris Metro and the French national rail company SNCF, upset
over working conditions.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How speaking French can really mess up your English
Photo: CollegeDegree360/Flickr

So you've mastered French, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

French claims that Jungle camp is empty are rubbished
Photo: AFP

Reports from the scene say scores of migrants are still in the area of the Jungle despite French authorities claiming "mission fulfilled."

Kidnapped Riviera millionaire left tied up in car boot in Nice
Photo: AFP

Head of luxury Cannes hotel has been found alive after being kidnapped in Nice on Monday.

Paris landlords still charging illegally high rents
Photo: Panoramas/Flickr

... and it's tenants in the smaller apartments that get hit the hardest. Could you be paying too much?

France takes baby steps to make life simpler
Photo: AFP

... including extending the ridiculously short time limit for registering a new baby.

IN PICTURES: Calais Jungle camp goes up in flames
All Photos: AFP

Migrants leave behind a scorched camp as they are moved to locations across France.

French expats in UK suffer Brexit abuse
French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

French nationals no longer feel at home in the UK, ambassador says. But Brits in France have been greeted with sympathy since the referendum.

Six to go on trial in France over topless Kate photos
Photo: AFP

The topless pics sparked fury among the royals.

France sees biggest drop in jobless rate for 20 years
Photo: AFP

Good news at last. But it's unlikely to keep President François Hollande in his job.

Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available