Macron en­acts con­tentious la­bor re­forms

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD - Reuters

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron on Fri­day signed sweep­ing changes to France’s com­plex la­bor code into law, ram­ming through a landmark re­form four months into his ad­min­is­tra­tion de­spite protests from hard-line unions.

“The re­form ... con­sti­tutes an un­prece­dented trans­for­ma­tion of our social model [and] the eco­nomic func­tion­ing of our coun­try,” the 39-year-old said, adding that it had been “car­ried out in record time.”

The mea­sures are de­signed to give em­ploy­ers more flex­i­bil­ity to ne­go­ti­ate pay and con­di­tions with their work­ers while mak­ing it eas­ier and less costly to shed staff.

Macron signed the re­form, con­tained in five ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, seated at his desk in the El­y­see Palace be­fore tele­vi­sion cam­eras in a US-in­spired nov­elty for a French pres­i­dent.

The over­haul, ea­gerly awaited by the busi­ness com­mu­nity and France’s EU part­ners, was fast­tracked via ex­ec­u­tive or­ders as a way of avoid­ing a pro­longed de­bate in par­lia­ment.

The mea­sures chip into worker pro­tec­tions that have long been sacro­sanct in France, frus­trat­ing re­form-minded gov­ern­ments whether on the left or the right.

But Macron in­sisted Fri­day that the re­form con­tained “new rights and new pro­tec­tions,” such as a pro­vi­sion for higher pay­outs to work­ers made re­dun­dant.

Three months of ne­go­ti­a­tions with union lead­ers pro­duced a split be­tween those will­ing to com­pro­mise – the CFDT and FO – and those de­ter­mined to fight the re­forms, led by the largest and most mil­i­tant union, the CGT.

On Thurs­day, some 132,000 peo­ple demon­strated across France, just over half the num­bers who took part last week in the first ma­jor protests to chal­lenge Macron since his elec­tion in May.

The CGT has vowed to con­tinue to com­bat his re­forms, while rad­i­cal left leader Jean-Luc Me­len­chon wants to get tens of thou­sands into the streets on Satur­day.

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