French PM survives no-confidence vote

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech during a ceremony at the Luxembourg Gardens to mark the anniversary of the abolition of slavery and to pay tribute to the victims of the slave trade, in Paris, on May 10, 201Image copyright

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The French government is expected to win Thursday’s vote

France’s government has survived vote of no confidence put forward by the opposition in protest over controversial labour reforms.

The motion, brought by the centre-right party Les Republicans, garnered 246 votes, shy of the 288 needed to defeat the reforms and topple the government.

Thousands of people marched through Paris as the vote took place, to protest against the proposals.

They will now be debated in France’s Senate.

The controversial proposals, backed by Prime Minister Manuel Valls and President Francois Hollande, sparked ongoing and sometimes violent street protests across France, and fresh protests are now planned for next week.

Unions and student groups have so far blocked roads and barricaded schools in the western cities of Nantes and Rennes.

The opposition was expected ahead of the vote to be around 40 votes short of the required total.

Some lawmakers within President Hollande’s own Socialist Party were expected to vote with the motion, in protest as what they see as legislation that is too pro-business.

French labour reform bill – main points

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours
  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay
  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn
  • Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

Busting the myth of France’s 35-hour working week

The changes make it easier for employers to hire and fire, but opponents fear they will also enable employers to bypass workers’ rights on pay, overtime and breaks.

The government argues that it needs to make the labour market more flexible in order to create jobs.

Mr Hollande chose to push through the legislation without parliamentary approval, using special executive powers, after months of resistance.

The law can only be defeated if a no-confidence vote is held and lost by the government – in which case the cabinet is forced to resign.

The tactic has only been used once before during his presidency, again to pass disputed economic reforms.

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Waves of sometimes violent demonstrations have followed the passage of the bill

Demonstrators outside the National Assembly on Wednesday called for President Hollande to resign and protests continued into the night.

Police used tear gas against protesters in Grenoble and Montpellier, reports from social media say. There were also demonstrations in Lille, Tours and Marseille.

In Toulouse two young protesters were injured in clashes with police, according to Le Parisien (in French).

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