Labor reform bill forced through French parliament without vote

PARIS, July 21 (UPI) — France’s controversial new labor law is expected to go into effect Thursday after the government forced the bill through parliament without a vote.

The law eases rules for hiring, firing and setting work hours. It was pushed by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, a member of the Socialist Party, who invoked a constitutional provision to eliminate debate and a vote in parliament. It was the third time the measure was used to propel the bill, which has divided the Socialist government of President Fran├žois Hollande.

Proponents of the legislation say it will reduce France’s high unemployment rate and make the country more competitive in the world markets. Valls told the National Assembly on Wednesday: “This bill is a bill of progress. This bill puts an end to rigidities in the labor market.”

Seventy percent of the French public opposes the overhaul of the country’s labor laws, the New York Times reported, although interest in the bill has waned as news about three major terrorist attacks in France in the past 19 months, most recently last week in Nice, dominated the headlines and the public’s attention.

Opposition to the law provoked widespread demonstrations, rioting and violence in recent months by those who object to what they say is a reduction of workers’ rights and of union power. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 1,700 people were arrested in the protests, and more than 550 police officers were injured.

The French government weakened the bill from its original version, but not enough to appease labor unions and some within the Socialist government. The changes also alienated right-wing hardliners who accused the government of refraining from installing more labor reforms.

Labor unions scheduled more protests for September.

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