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France takes ‘great step for reform’ as labour laws passed

After months of violent street protests and friction between unions and the government, the French parliament has definitively adopted a set of controversial labour reforms.

France takes 'great step for reform' as labour laws passed
Photo: AFP

The French parliament definitively adopted a set of contentious labour reforms on Thursday which sparked months of violent
protests against a package seen as a threat to cherished workers' rights.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls used a constitutional tool to force the legislation through parliament three times, to avoid rebel Socialist backbenchers sinking it.

After the passage of the reform Valls praised “a great step for the reform of our country: more rights for workers, more visibility for our small and medium enterprises and more jobs.”

After a lengthy bicameral shuttle the reforms were considered adopted on Thursday afternoon after no lawmakers called a vote of no confidence in the government.

In a sign of the divisions among the Socialists, lawmakers from the ruling party were only two votes short of calling a vote of no confidence.

The Republicans opposition party said it would take the matter to the constitutional council, and the Left Front said it would do the same to denounce “a forceful passage which only strengthens a democratic crisis in our institutions”.

Unions have vowed to continue their protests, many of which ended in violence, in September.

The proposed labour reforms are aimed at making the job market more flexible and reducing unemployment, stubbornly high at around 10 percent.

The stand-out changes will make it easier for firms to lay people off when their are going through tough times, although strict rules have been laid out for when companies can make redundancies on these grounds.

The reforms are also aimed at weakening the power of trade unions by allowing companies to enter into negotiations with workers at a company level rather than a sector level, where union representation is strong.

But critics see the measures, which would make it easier to hire and fire people, are too pro-business and would fail to bring down the jobless count.

Those in business, who have long been calling for more flexibility in the job market, have also criticized the bill on the grounds that it does not go far enough.

 

READ ALSO: Why both sides despise France's labour reforms

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PROTESTS

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

Students blockaded five schools in Paris on Tuesday to demonstrate their political concerns ahead of the second round of the Presidential elections on Sunday.

Students blockade Paris schools in election protest

In addition to the five blockaded lycées, the université Paris 8 in Saint-Denis was closed “for security reasons”.

The students – who are too young to make their voices heard at the ballot box – were protesting against the options available to voters in the second round – where incumbent Emmanuel Macron takes on far-right leader Marine Le Pen – and follows earlier student protests at the Sorbonne.

Many were demonstrating in protest at what they saw as inadequate policies on climate change and social issues from both candidates in the final round of voting, as well as the lack of choice for the electorate.

“It is a continuation of what happened at the Sorbonne,” one student told AFP. “We want a third social round, because the two candidates qualified for the second round have no social or ecological programmes. 

“We want to give a new breath to this Fifth Republic a little at the end of the race.

“We are fed up with the fascist state. We are here against Marine Le Pen, against fascism, for the climate and against capitalism,” another student at the lycée Louis-le-Grand in the capital’s fifth arrondissement said.

“We have blocked all the entrances. We will stay there as long as possible.”

About 100 students blockaded the prestigious school. Some students chant slogans against the “Front National” – the former name of second-round candidate Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National party.

The blockades ended peacefully at the end of the day.

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