France's Valls meets youth leaders over labour reform protests

France Prime Minister Manuel Valls receives leader of youth organisations and students to discuss proposed labour reforms

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls talks to the press during a press conference.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was to meet student and youth leaders on Monday to discuss proposed labour reforms that sparked public demonstrations and nocturnal protest movements in several cities.

The labor bill seeks to introduce new flexibility in areas such as hiring and firing, working time and industrial tribunal payouts, as part of reforms designed to make good on promises by President Francois Hollande to bring down an unemployment rate that has failed to drop below 10 percent.

Ahead of Monday’s talks with Prime Minister Manuel Valls at his office, the government pointed out that it would consider calls by students’ union UNEF to increase financial support and paid training programs for young jobseekers.

Protesters face riot police on April 9, 2016 in Nantes, western France, as they protest against the government's planned labour law reforms./AFP

A sixth day of public demonstrators on Saturday saw numbers dwindle from their March 31 peak, but clashes broke out between police and masked youths on the sidelines of processions and an all-night protest gathering in Paris.

Police made eight arrests on Saturday night after about 300 demonstrators went on a rampage across the capital, attacking a police building, damaging cars and vandalising bank offices.

In response to the protests, lawmakers have already watered down the bill, notably by changing an initially proposed cap on industrial tribunal payouts to a non-binding guideline, and requiring small businesses to involve unions in any deals negotiated locally with staff representatives.

People raise their hands as they participate in the "Nuit debout" (Up All Night) movement on the place of Cours Julien on April 9, 2016./AFP

The "Nuit Debout" (which roughly translates as "Rise Up at Night”) movement has drawn thousands of young mainly left-wing voters keen to vent their frustration with the Socialist government of Hollande, the least popular serving president in modern French history.

The main pro-business organisation in France, Medef, voiced dissatisfaction at the concessions.

"The competitiveness of small businesses has been forgotten," Medef head Pierre Gattaz said.

"We're a long way from the original ambition to simplify the labour law - this version is a monument to complexity."

TRTWorld and agencies