Macron enacts contentious labor reforms
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.