French government to use special power to pass labor reform

PARIS (AP) — The French government said Tuesday it will use special powers to pass a hotly contested labor reform through the lower house of parliament without vote.

The decision to invoke article 49-3 of the Constitution came after the government failed to find a compromise on the bill with legislators and convened a brief emergency Cabinet meeting.

The reform has divided the governing Socialist party, where a group of rebels refuses to vote for it.

The conservative opposition responded by filing a censure motion, which will force prime minister Manuel Valls to defend his pro-business policies and face a no-confidence vote in coming days in the lower house.

Valls is likely to pass the no-confidence vote as the Socialist rebels are, despite their discontent, unlikely to threaten their government’s stability.

The reform would make it easier to lay off workers, weaken some union powers, and relax rules regulating the country’s 35-hour workweek. It has sparked violent protests across the country in recent weeks.

Valls was booed by politicians from the far left and from the conservative ranks when he announced the decision at the lower house.

“This text, useful for businesses and for workers, faces —and I regret it— oppositions from all sides. My responsibility is to move forward and ensure that this text is adopted,” Valls said.

Another street protest against the reform, organized by seven labor unions and youth organizations, was scheduled for Thursday.

The decision means the government “refuses the democratic debate on this law,” the FIDL youth organization said in a written statement.

The reform will still need to be debated in the Senate.

The government was in the same situation last year resorted to article 49-3 of the Constitution to pass an economic reform that has allowed stores to open more often on Sundays.