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French PM insists on pushing through controversial labor reform


Edouard Philippe

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Wednesday that he was aware of the public anger over the controversial labor reform, but insisted that the new regulations would be pushed through.

"The protest I respect it, it exists, it is there, I listen. Freedom to demonstrate is a fundamental right in France and those who are concerned or opposed this text have the perfect right to protest," Philippe told France 2 television.

"I am listening and I am paying attention. But let me allow myself to state that the French, when they vote, also have a right to be treated with respect. And the reform that we are putting in place, it was announced by the president at the time of the election," he added.

Philippe's remarks came a day after street protests took place nationwide. CGT hard-line union said 400,000 protesters took party in the protests across the country while police set the number at 223,000.

Denouncing "social coup d'etat," demonstrators headed by figures from the hard-left "Unbowed France" party refused a reform aimed to lessen labor rules and offer the companies more freedom in terms of recruitment, firing and pay conditions.

Philippe Martinez, leader of the country's second-biggest union, said Tuesday's movement was "a first phase," and fresh action was scheduled for Sept. 21, a day before the adoption of the new rules by the government.

"It's not a showdown at all. I don't consider it like that. There is still a number of elements to discuss ... the unions know this perfectly," the French prime minister said.

For decades, governments from the right and the left had tried to reform the country's rigid labor rules but weeks of nationwide street protests forced them to dilute their proposals.