Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to overhaul the country’s complex labour code, fulfilling a central campaign promise, sparked the first strikes and protests on Tuesday. While the centrist believes that making the labour market more flexible will help drive down unemployment of 9.5%, opponents fear an erosion of worker protections. What Macron hopes will be a signature reform entails a major overhaul of the more than 3,000-page labour code which sets out workers’ rights, with some measures dating back more than a century. Macron, whose Republic on the Move party enjoys a comfortable majority in parliament, intends to fast-track the reforms by executive orders, which are expected to take effect late this month even before being ratified by parliament in the next few months. The reforms will give small companies, in particular, more freedom to negotiate working conditions with their employees, rather than being bound by industry-wide collective agreements negotiated by ...

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