Published:  12:36 AM, 14 September 2017

We won't back down vows French govt

The French government will press ahead with President Emmanuel Macron's flagship labour reforms despite the first mass protests against his pro-business agenda, a leading minister said Wednesday.

It stems from a campaign promise made by Emmanuel Macron, Work Minister Muriel Penicaud said, referring to changes aimed at giving companies more flexibility in hiring and firing.

We are implementing the things that the French people asked us to do, so we're not going to back down, she told BFM television. Around 200,000 people according to police -- 500,000 according to organizers -- answered a call from the Communist-backed CGT trade union to strike and protest nationwide on Tuesday against Macron's proposals.

The business-friendly 39-year-old wants to make France more attractive for both local companies and foreign investors who have long complained about restrictive workplace rules and the power of trade unions. The French people asked us to transform the country, they asked us to act, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told the France 2 channel.

I know that the French people know perfectly well that our country is not in a healthy position. The new law will give small company bosses in particular more freedom to negotiate working conditions directly with their employees while capping compensation for fired workers.

-AFP, Paris

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