French government might consider changes to labor bill: PM Valls

May 26, 2016 6:30 pm

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls ©AP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says Paris could consider amendments to its proposed labor reforms that have sparked violent protests and strikes across the European country.
“There could be improvements and modifications,” Valls said on BFM television Thursday without elaborating on what changes might be made to the unpopular reforms.
The French premier, however, said the government will not abandon the reforms altogether, arguing that a retreat “is not possible.”
The “heart” of the reforms, which is a measure weakening the power of unions over workplace rules, should be kept unchanged, Valls stated.
In reaction to Valls’ remarks, members of the union General Confederation of Labour (CGT), which is leading the demonstrations, said it is too late for the government to compromise. 
“Valls is hardening his tone? Well we’re hardening our tone too!” an organizer chanted at the Normandy Bridge, where about 200 to 300 trade unionists and other protesters had gathered to block traffic on Thursday.

People demonstrate in Le Havre, , on May 26, 2016 to express their opposition to the government’s proposed labor reforms. ©AFP

France is reeling under the effects of industrial actions in several sectors over the past few days.
On Thursday, nuclear power station workers also voted to join a nationwide work stoppage, causing disruptions at six of the country’s eight oil refineries and fuel shortages in several areas.
The government has been forced to start using its strategic oil reserves, which analysts say will last only four months.

Workers block the access to the nuclear power plant of Nogent-sur-Marne, in the eastern suburbs of Paris, France, on May 26, 2016, during a protest against the government’s proposed labor reforms. ©AFP

Paris protest turns violent
In another development on Thursday, police clashed with people protesting the controversial labor reforms in the capital, Paris.
The confrontations broke out after masked youths hurled bottles at police who responded with tear gas. The youths also set about smashing shop windows and parked cars in a side street in Paris.
France has been the scene of often violent protests against the Socialist government’s planned changes to the country’s labor law.
Paris says the proposed labor reforms focus on maximum working hours, holidays as well as breaks, and are aimed at curbing unemployment rate.
Protesters and workers’ unions, however, say the government wants to make it easier and less costly for employers to lay off workers.
The draft labor bill, which includes a loosening of the maximum 35-hour working week and a cap on redundancy payments, was recently forced through the lower house of parliament, but it must be debated in the Senate.
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