French PM vows no climbdown on labour reforms after violent protests

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday (June 15) has vowed to stand firm on a disputed set of labour reforms.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday (June 15) has vowed to stand firm on a disputed set of labour reforms. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - A defiant French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday (June 15) vowed to stand firm on a disputed set of labour reforms, despite mass protests against them that spiralled into violence.

"The government will not change a text which is already the outcome of a compromise sealed several months ago with reform-minded unions," Mr Valls told France Inter radio.

He blasted the troublemakers, who he said wanted to "kill" the police officers patrolling the demonstration and accused the hardline CGT union, which organised the marches, of an "ambiguous attitude" towards those attacking the authorities.

"I call on the CGT not to organise this type of demonstration in Paris any more," Mr Valls said.

President Francois Hollande's Socialist government is trying to push through a set of reforms to the labour market in a bid to force down France's stubbornly high unemployment rates.

Critics see the reforms as skewed towards business interests, and strikes and clashes have flared.

On Tuesday, several hundred masked protesters hurled projectiles at the police, who made dozens of arrests.

Forty people were hurt in the clashes, which came with the international spotlight shining brightly on France as host of the Euro 2016 football championships.

Police said 29 members of the security forces were among those injured in Paris, while three cars were burned on the city streets.

Two further protest days are set for later this month.

Police and organisers gave wildly different figures for the turnout, with unions saying 1.3 million people had turned out across France but police estimating the crowds at 125,000 or more, some 80,000 of them in Paris.