France adopts labour law loosening worker protections

PARIS – France adopted a deeply divisive labour bill Wednesday after the government used a special measure to force it through Parliament without a vote, ending months of often violent protests and damaging political division.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls argued to the lower house of Parliament that the bill — which weakens union powers, makes layoffs easier and extends the work week — is necessary to create jobs and make the economy more globally competitive.

He used the special measure because left and right couldn’t agree on the reforms.

The bill led to months of violent clashes between police and leftist protesters who accuse the Socialist government of trampling on democracy and dismantling hard-won worker protections.

Conservative critics say the bill doesn’t go far enough, and they’re already hoping to push a tougher bill if they gain power in presidential and legislative elections next year.

Leftist critics meanwhile want to dismantle it. “The future of work will be the heart of 2017,” tweeted lawmaker Christian Paul, a Socialist who broke with the government over the bill.

With the country still reeling from a deadly attack in Nice last week, there were no public protests Wednesday around the labour law. There was no debate in the National Assembly, because Valls used a constitutional measure to push it through without a vote. It was the third time he used the move, which further enflamed protests.

President Francois Hollande has been trying throughout his term to reduce unemployment, long around 10 per cent.