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French president signs labor reform

September 22, 2017

Signed by the president in a staged event in front of television cameras, the decrees are designed to give employers more flexibility to negotiate pay and conditions with their workers. Some unions have objected.

President Emmanuel Macron signed the decrees at the Elysee Palace
Image: Reuters/F. Wojazer

In a televised event in the style of the US White House, President Emmanuel Macron signed five decrees on Friday in an overhaul of his country's complex labor code. The use of his presidential powers means that there will be only a limited parliamentary debate about the content of the law.

Four months into his presidency, Macron said the reform ushers in an "unprecedented transformation of our social and economic model."

It goes onto the statute books on Monday, with some measures such as streamlining workers' committees only taking effect at the end of the year.

The new law will make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees, simplify negotiations between employers and employees and reduce the power of national collective bargaining.

France's unemployment rate has hovered at just about or slightly below 10 percent since 2010. That is twice the rate in Britain and Germany.

Fast-track to avoid labor dispute

The reform measures were fast-tracked via the orders to avoid a prolonged dispute with labor unions after three months of talks revealed a split between the federations. The second largest federation CFDT and third-largest, FO were prepared to compromise, while the largest and most militant union, the CGT said it would fight.

CGT leader Philippe Martinez warned Macron: "When you are president, you should show humility rather than strutting about."

The comment came after Macron had said in New York at the UN on Wednesday: "Democracy does not happen in the street."

On Thursday, 132,000 people demonstrated across France against the reforms - about half the number who turned out earlier in the month.

jm/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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