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  • French President and former banker Emmanuel Macron.

    French President and former banker Emmanuel Macron. | Photo: AFP

Published 31 August 2017

The reforms will water down France's 3,000 pages of labor laws, making it easier to fire workers, and capping compensation for unfair dismissal.

In spite of plummeting popularity, French President Emmanuel Macron is revealing his massive labor law “reform,” which includes measures deeply unpopular with many workers and unions. With demonstrations already having occurred in anticipation of the overhaul, mass protests are expected in opposition.

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The law, which Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called “the mother of all reforms,” will strip down and “simplify” labor laws, by making it easier to both fire and hire workers, and placing a cap on compensation for unfair dismissal. The reforms will also crack down on labor union's role by bringing negotiation of many conditions to the employer employee level, rather than industry-wide labor union negotiations.

Macron made labor law reforms a crux of his campaign, and claims such measures are necessary to bring down unemployment. Perhaps aware of anticipated protests, he said last week that the “French hated reforms.”

A previous attempt to water down France's 3,000 pages of existing labor laws by ex-president Francois Hollande failed in the face of months of street protests and unrest. Macron's measures are far more extensive than Hollande's were, however unlike Hollande his adminstration has full parliamentary backing, and will be able to push the reforms through by decree.

A group of several hundred has already held a protest in a Paris suburb, organized by several trade and housing unions, RT reported. According to protesters speaking to RT, the demonstrations were organized to oppose the pro-business, “big bosses” government of Macron.

“Mr Macron represents the big bosses, and those who want to cut public services, social protection and everything achieved by workers,” a protester said to RT.

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Jean-Luc Melenchon, the leader of the leftist party France Unbowed who finished fourth in France's presidential elections, called for mass marches and opposition to the reforms, which he called a “social welfare coup d'etat.” A march is planned for September 23rd.

France's second-largest union, the CGT, also announced mass protests of its members for September 12th.

A recent opinion poll by Elabe indicated that 60 percent are “worried” by the reform, and 62 percent are opposed to the measure to limit dismissal compensation.

In spite of the unpopularity of many of the measures, and the certainty of resistance, government officials have said that they feel entitled to push them through because it was such a central component of the campaign.

“We didn't take anybody by surprise,” an official said to Reuters. The anonymous official said that whereas Macron campaigned on such reforms, his predecessor Hollande made an unexpected policy about-face after two years in office.

Macron's popularity has plummeted since his election, as policies cutting wealth taxes, and cuts to housing assistance have solidified his image as a politician of and for the rich.

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