Labour reform protests

French labour reforms: PM ready to make concessions

French labour reforms: PM ready to make concessions
The French government sent a signal on Thursday that it had heard the cries of protest against its divisive labour reforms.

In a bid to quell rising anger against labour reforms the French government appears ready to make at least some concessions.

Just a day after up to 500,000 students, high school pupils and workers, marched through the streets of French towns, the country’s Socialist government showed signs it was ready to cave in on some elements of the reform.

In a move aimed at appeasing the country’s youth, Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri confirmed earlier reports that they are considering dropping the measure that would have extended the number of hours companies could ask young apprentices to work for.

Currently apprentices can be asked to work up to eight hours a day or 35 hours a week, but under the government’s plan, those working hours would have been stretched to ten a day and 40 a week.

But El Khomri confirmed that a move to ditch this unpopular measure was “on the table”.

Another measure the government were looking into to pacify trade unions was a surtax on temporary contracts, called CDDs, to encourage companies to employ new recruits on permanent contracts, known as CDIs.

In France, the vast majority of recruits are hired on CDD contracts, because they are cheaper, and companies are wary about handing out CDIs because staff on permanent contracts are harder to let go.

But it leaves many workers in France moving from one CDD to another with little job security. Without a CDI, it is also much harder to get a loan, rent a flat or buy a house.

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El Khomri said the proposal to make employers pay a tax on CDD contracts will be put to trade unions before March 24th, the date when the bill will go before the cabinet.

French PM Manuel Valls said on Thursday he would meet with the various youth organizations that led Wednesday’s protests.

Valls will meet with the student and school unions “as quickly as possible to continue talks”, said the country’s education minister Najat Vallaud Belkacem.

President François Hollande and his government see the package of reforms as the last chance to cut unemployment. They hope the measures, which will make it easier for firms to hire and fire people, will create jobs.

Supporters of the reforms believe they are essential to reviving a stagnant economy and creating jobs, and El Khomri has argued that much of the opposition to her law stems from misinformation and false rumours.

However trade unions and student groups oppose the reform because they believe it will undermine job security and make it too easy for workers to be laid off by firms.

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