Europe's 'secret hand' in France's divisive labour law


The French government’s labour law reform bill, now being debated in the Senate, has prompted fierce opposition from several trades unions, massive demonstrations across the country, and a deep political and social crisis. Opinion polls show a majority of the population are opposed to the bill, which reduces current protection for employees with measures that include easing conditions for firing staff and placing a ceiling on compensation sums awarded by industrial tribunals. But the government is adamant it will not negotiate the bill's contents. Martine Orange investigates the reasons for its unusual intransigence, and discovers evidence that the most controversial texts of the bill were demanded by European Union economic liberals.

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While France’s socialist government has shown a willingness to negotiate in a number of social conflicts, most recently with that of the railways, it has remained intransigent in face of the massive contestation over its bill of reforms to the country’s labour laws. The dogged determination of the government to see its new labour law bill become legislation has seen it use a decree to get it through the National Assembly on its first passage, doing away with debate and a vote by MPs.