French PM vows to go ahead on reforms

epa05186973 French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (C) tastes a glass of milk during his visit to the International Agriculture Fair of Paris at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center, in Paris, 29 February 2016. The Paris International Agricultural Show runs from 27 February until 06 March 2016.  EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

Paris / AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Sunday he would push ahead with a controversial labour reform bill, but promised “improvements” to the proposed text after meetings with union and business leaders.
Unveiled in mid-February and greeted with howls of protest from trade unions, the plans would make it easier for companies to lay off workers.
“We have to improve and complete this draft law. But what we cannot do is maintain the status quo,” Valls said in an interview with the weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.
“(We) cannot stand still even for a second. This labour law means more transparency for businesses and more protection for employees,” he said.
The prime minister will meet with business and union heads from Monday, while a number of organisations have called strikes for Wednesday and demonstrations later in the month to protest against the plans.
Valls faces strong opposition from the left wing of his own Socialist Party, while seven in 10 French are opposed to the changes, according to a poll. Another survey showed two-thirds of people believe there will be widespread protests if the law is pushed through.
The reforms are part of government efforts to combat record unemployment levels in a country where employers are loath to take on permanent workers, as letting them go can be near impossible.
But critics complain the measures would dismantle one of the key job guarantees for French
Currently French companies have to justify in court plans to shed workers due to an economic downturn, a process they have complained makes it difficult and expensive to trim staff when the economy slows and ultimately makes them reluctant to hire.
Submission of the proposals to the cabinet has been postponed from March 9 to March 24 in order for a compromise to be reached, according to a government source.

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