The French government said on Thursday it would cap payouts for dismissals deemed unfair and give companies more flexibility to adapt pay and working hours to market conditions in a labour reform France's biggest union said was disappointing. Kate King reports.
You could be mistaken for thinking union bosses had already been told what was in France's highly anticipated labor reform plan, as they headed into a meeting with the French Prime minister. It was he, who fronted media afterwards. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRIME MINISTER EDOUARD PHILIPPE SAYING: "Our goal is simple : it aims to favour job creation by giving more security and visibility to entrepreneurs in their decision to hire and more guarantees to employees." In other words - French companies with fewer than 50 employees will have more flexibility to adapt pay and working hours. And can directly negotiate with workers A cap will also be placed on unfair dismissal payouts, Angering unions who say it severely weakens employee power. (SOUNDBITE) (French) SECRETARY GENERAL OF CGT (CONFÉDÉRATION GÉNÉRALE DU TRAVAIL) PHILIPPE MARTINEZ SAYING: "It's the end of the employment contract, meaning that tomorrow, (if you have) a deal with a firm, it's either you agree or you are fired, your employment contract no longer exists." France's unemployment rate sits at 9.5 percent. Double that of other big European economies. The pro-business reforms are the first major test for French President Macron, who's already facing waning popularity. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INVESTMENT DIRECTOR AT FIDELITY INTERNATIONAL TOM STEVENSON SAYING: "I think that you know it was a rather grudging support that people gave for him and now it's crunch time because now he's trying to push through reforms of the economy which many people frankly are resistant to." There's been weeks of protests leading up to the announcement, another is planned for September 12. But there's little room for more negotiation. Macron plans to push the bill through by decree after winning parliament's support to do so. More discontent could follow, budget and pensions are next on the chopping block.