France to reform 'overly complex' labour law by mid-2016: PM

9th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Wednesday lawmakers would vote next year on reforms to simplify France's "overly complex" labour law and get more of the 3.5 million unemployed back into work.

But the government faces an uphill struggle to convince unions and workers that the current code governing the labour market in the eurozone's second-largest economy needs to be shaken up.

Valls said the 3,000-pages-long labour law was "at times unreadable" but promised that the proposed reforms would not affect France's sacrosanct 35-hour working week, which is regularly criticised by the centre-right opposition but cherished by the governing Socialists.

The reforms would give "more flexibility, but not less protection" to workers, Valls said after the release of a report on possible reforms to laws governing the labour market.

The main recommendation in the report is that companies must be able to negotiate with unions on certain crux issues -- such as working conditions or salaries -- that are currently non-negotiable as they are enshrined in the law.

And in another novelty, management will only be obliged to sign deals with organisations representing at least 50 percent of workers who voted in union elections, up from the current 30 percent.

A bill will be submitted to cabinet at the end of the year or the beginning of 2016, and parliament is expected to vote on it by next summer.

Unions were quick to react on Wednesday, and while some said they were not hostile to the proposed changes as long as they offer "better protection" for workers, others were instantly against them.

Philippe Martinez, the head of the influential CGT union, said he was "resolutely against this development in the labour law."

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© 2015 AFP

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