France’s prime minister has made a u-turn in his cost-cutting reforms battle, which last week sparked massive anti-government strikes. Jean-Pierre Raffarin has announced he is to open pay negotiations with trade unions just weeks after ministers rejected worker’s pay demands. And despite strong opposition, he indicated he will stand by plans to make the 35-hour working week more flexible. With unemployment at a record five year high of 10 percent, Raffarin hopes that it will help to create more jobs.
He also said he will try to encourage private sector firms to hand-down some of their profits to workers through ‘share-ownership’ schemes. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country last Thursday, calling for salary increases and an end to the government’s planned changes to the working week.The government is looking to defuse anger among its voters as it campaigns for a ‘yes’ vote on the EU constitution ahead of the poll in May.