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French government survives confidence vote paving way for contested labour reforms

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By Euronews  with Reuters
French government survives confidence vote paving way for contested labour reforms

France’s Socialist government has survived a confidence vote, paving the way for controversial labour reforms.

The centre-right Republican party brought the motion, but gained just 246 of the 288 votes needed to topple the government and scrap the amendments.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked the little-used Article 49.3 in the constitution, which allowed the cabinet to bypass parliament and press ahead with the law.

The reforms will now be debated in the Senate.

“The Labour Law, the President of the Republic reminded us this morning, is a law of social progress and an indispensable reform for our country,” Valls told the National Assembly.

The Article was invoked after a number of Socialist MPs said they would vote against the bill.

“I give you my word that I won’t allow the left-wing of the government or French social democracy to be destroyed and yes, the time for clarification has arrived,” Valls added.

They weren’t the only ones up in arms about the law.

One woman said she was angry about the way it was pushed through, particularly after the Macron law – allowing retail shops to open 12 Sundays per year – was also imposed due to Article 49.3.

“I would have given up if there hadn’t been the 49.3 factor. Because, it’s exhausting to go to demonstrations. First the Macron Law, now this? I don’t know what goes through their heads.”

The law will see more flexibility in the 35-hour working week and give employers greater freedom to reduce pay.

At least 80 arrests were made after thousands took to the streets of France to protest against both the law and the way it has been pushed through.

Opponents say it is “anti-democratic” and claim it will allow employers to sidestep workers’ rights on pay, extra hours and breaks.