French government forces controversial labour bill through parliament

French government forces controversial labour bill through parliament

France's government has used a special measure to force approval of a divisive labour bill in its lower house of parliament without a vote - for a second time.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked a special constitutional article to approve the second reading of the bill. He did the same thing for the bill's first reading.

The decision prompted politicians to march out of the National Assembly in anger.

Mr Valls argued that the bill is needed to boost hiring after decades of high unemployment and said he made the move "in the general interest".

The bill prompted divisions in the governing Socialist party. Opponents say it will threaten hard-won worker protections because it allows employers more freedom to lay off workers and extend working hours.

The bill faces a final reading later this month.

French unions marched through nearby Paris streets in what may be their last show of force against the bill, which has divided the nation and prompted the worst social unrest in years.

Protesters in Paris and other cities want the government to scrap the bill entirely. Months of demonstrations and strikes have damaged tourism, caused fuel shortages and led to frequent clashes between projectile-throwing protesters and police firing tear gas.

Mr Valls used the same constitutional manoeuvre for the first reading of the bill, inflaming critics who accuse the government of trampling democracy.

The bill now goes back to the conservative-led Senate, then returns later this month to the lower house, which has the final say.


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