French govt forces labor bill without parliament approval, faces no-confidence vote

The French government is to face a no-confidence vote after it forced the highly unpopular labor bill through the lower house of parliament without a vote. The reform has caused protests across France, many of them turning violent.

Prime Minister Valls said he was not threatened by the no-confidence vote, which is scheduled for Thursday.

Passing the bill by decree comes after the French government resorted to a controversial Article in the Constitution on Tuesday in a bid to override parliament’s vote on labor reform. Article 49.3 has been used under Hollande’s administration only once to push through an economic reform last year. It has been used fewer than 90 times since its inception in 1958.

“Pursuing the debate in parliament would pose the risk of abandoning the compromise that we have built,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament.

He added that the government was trying to avoid “a disheartening spectacle of division and political posturing because of an obstructionist minority.”

The initiative to hold the no-confidence vote came from two center right opposition parties: the Republicans headed by Nicolas Sarkozy and the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) led by Jean-Christophe Lagarde.

In the 575-seat parliament both parties have 226 votes of the 288 that are required to “defeat” the government. But the parties have not given up and even asked the left-wing opposition to back them, a move which the minister for parliamentary elections Jean-Marie Le Guen called “inconceivable.”

Crowds of protesters gathered outside the National Assembly in the French capital once again to voice their protest against the controversial bill.

Tuesday’s move is “an insult to the people of this country” and the bill is an “unprecedented setback for workers’ rights in France, a return to the 19th century,” Up All Night organizers said in a statement, as cited by AFP.

The reform, proposed by Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri, states that employers would pay only 10 percent of overtime bonus, instead of the current 25 percent. The bill technically maintains the 35-hour working week, but says that in case of “exceptional circumstances,” employees can be asked to work up to 60 hours a week.

The proposed bill sparked huge demonstrations across the country. They have been going on since early March. The protests were called and reported on under the hashtag #LoiTravail (Labor Law).

The rallies were partially called by a Facebook community dubbed Nuit Debout (Rise Up At Night). The protests have repeatedly turned violent with officers clashing with demonstrators and police firing tear gas at protesters. Almost every rally has ended with arrests. The most violent rallies occurred in Paris, Rennes and Nantes.

The protests have resulted in injuries among demonstrators, police officers and journalists who were covering the events. French police are set to protest against the level of violence they are receiving from members of the public. A major police union says 300 officers have been hurt since the start of the year and law enforcers will stage a protest on May 18.

Sporadic anti-labor law protests in France have grown into something more substantial – now people are rallying against capitalism, the French government and intolerance, very similar to the Occupy movement in the US that turned global.