President Francois Hollande ruled out scrapping the government's controversial labour reforms bill while saying it could be “improved”.
“The idea is not to withdraw what has not yet been adopted, presented… the law can be improved, there are surely clarifications to make, corrections to make… while preserving the spirit,” Hollande said.
“The spirit is for there to be more hiring in our country, more jobs and more young people who enter” the job market with permanent contracts, he said.
Meanwhile the French government will meet student and high school unions in a bid to respond to fierce opposition to the proposed labour law reforms, Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said Thursday.
Young people were at the forefront of demonstrations against the draft law that were held across France on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls “will meet the youth organizations very soon, to continue the dialogue with them”, Vallaud-Belkacem told France 2 TV.
The reform would remove some of the obstacles to laying off workers, but opponents fear it will erode the cast-iron job security that French workers on full-time contracts enjoy.
Vallaud-Belkacem said the demonstrations that unions claimed brought up to half a million people onto the streets – the police said it was half that number – boasted “a serious turnout”.
Myriam El Khomri, the labour minister who drew up the contested reforms, also said “the criticisms must be heard”.
The main student union, Unef, has called for a follow-up demonstration on March 17th.
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.