Date
16 January 2017
Protesters take cover from tear gas in Nantes during a demonstration against the French labor law proposal. Photo: Reuters
Protesters take cover from tear gas in Nantes during a demonstration against the French labor law proposal. Photo: Reuters

Fierce protests rock France over controversial labor reform

France is gripped with widespread protests after the government forced through controversial labor reforms.

Police fired rubber bullets on demonstrators outside the national assembly in Paris and clashed with protesters in Nantes, the largest city in northwestern Brittany region, BBC News reports.

Earlier, the cabinet approved special powers to pass the changes without parliamentary approval, saying the these are essential to help cut high levels of unemployment.

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

President Francois Hollande has faced months of resistance to the bill from students, unions and even members of his own Socialist Party.

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the national assembly in Paris on Tuesday, calling for President Hollande to resign, with the protests continuing into the night.

The decision to invoke an article of the constitution to force through the reforms was made after the government failed to reach a compromise on the bill with a group of rebel MPs within the Socialist Party.

This tactic has only been used once before under President Hollande, again to push though disputed economic reforms.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed by MPs from the far left and the conservative opposition when he announced the cabinet’s decision to the National Assembly.

“Pursuing the debate in parliament would pose the risk of… abandoning the compromise that we have built,” he said.

The only way the bill can now be stopped is by the motion of censure – a vote of no confidence – that was filed by two right-wing parties on Tuesday.

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