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Anger as France imposes labour reforms

Do Not UseDo Not Use 11/05/2016
Protesters stand in smoke in Nantes, France: Nantes saw clashes between protesters and anti-riot police © AFP Nantes saw clashes between protesters and anti-riot police

Fierce protests have broken out across France after the government forced through controversial labour reforms.

Grey line © BBC Grey line

In Nantes, protesters clashed with security forces. In Paris police fired rubber pellets on demonstrators outside the National Assembly.

A protester holds a flare in Nantes, France: Waves of sometimes violent demonstrations have followed the passage of the bill © AFP Waves of sometimes violent demonstrations have followed the passage of the bill

Earlier, the cabinet approved using special powers to pass the changes without parliamentary approval.

Tear gas is used on protesters in Paris: Hundreds gathered in Paris calling for President Hollande to resign © AFP Hundreds gathered in Paris calling for President Hollande to resign

France's Socialist government says the reforms are essential to help cut high levels of unemployment.

A riot policeman overlooks protesters in Nantes: Opponents of the bill warn it will erode workers' rights © AFP Opponents of the bill warn it will erode workers' rights

Two centre-right opposition parties have called a vote of no confidence in the government to be held on Thursday.

Protester Nicholas. Image: Rosanna Pound-Woods © BBC Protester Nicholas. Image: Rosanna Pound-Woods

The changes to the labour laws make it easier for employers to hire and fire but opponents fear they will also enable employers to bypass workers' rights on pay, overtime and breaks.

Protester Anais. Image: Rosanna Pound-Woods © BBC Protester Anais. Image: Rosanna Pound-Woods

President Francois Hollande has faced months of resistance to the bill from students, unions and even members of his own Socialist Party.

Protester Benoit Coquin. Image: Rosanna Pound-Woods © BBC Protester Benoit Coquin. Image: Rosanna Pound-Woods

French labour reform bill - main points

The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours

Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay

The law eases conditions for laying off workers, strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn

Employers given more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated

Busting the myth of France's 35-hour working week

Hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the National Assembly on Tuesday, calling for President Hollande to resign, with the protests continuing into the night.

Police used tear gas against protesters in Grenoble and Montpellier, reports from social media say. There were also demonstrations in Lille, Tours and Marseille.

In Toulouse two young protesters were injured in clashes with police, according to Le Parisien (in French).

The decision to invoke an article of the constitution to force through the reforms was made after the government failed to reach a compromise on the bill with a group of rebel Socialist MPs.

This tactic has only been used once before under President Hollande, again to push though disputed economic reforms.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls was booed by MPs from the far left and the conservative opposition when he announced the cabinet's decision to the National Assembly.

"Pursuing the debate in parliament would pose the risk of... abandoning the compromise that we have built," he said.

The only way the bill can now be stopped is by the motion of censure - a vote of no confidence - that was filed by two right-wing parties on Tuesday.

Between them they have 226 of the 288 votes needed to topple the government on Thursday.

However, correspondents say they are unlikely to find enough left-wing MPs willing to support them.

Fresh protests are set to be held on Thursday to coincide with the confidence vote.

Voices from the Paris protests

Nicholas: "The government is forcing through this law, so we decided to come here. We are not stuck in one place, we are everywhere where it matters. We want to show that people have a voice."

Anais, 31, student: "I'm here for real democracy. Without repression."

Benoit Coquin, 26: "I think that it's a law that's beginning to destroy the structure of working rights."

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