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France

Macron vows to pass labour reform by summer if elected president

media Emmanuel Macron at a May Day election rally RFI/Pierre René Worms

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that his labour reform plan was ready to go, risking the ire of left-wingers whose votes he might hope to win in Sunday's run-off against Marine Le Pen.

The day after a TV debate in which Le Pen's pugnacious performance drew widespread criticism, Macron seemed confident of victory and keen to put forward his free-market agenda.

He assured a radio interviewer that, if elected, he would quickly bring in new changes to France's labour law, despite the strikes and protests sparked by those already made by the outgoing Socialist government of which he was a member.

His plan was "ripe" for implementation and could be passed by decree in the summer, he told France Inter radio, insisting that a full debate had been held since "I've been talking about it since December".

Company-level deals on hours

His main proposal is to allow company-level agreements on questions, notably working hours, that are currently decided by industry-wide negotiations.

There would be further discussion with unions and employers' groups, the former economy minister promised, but stood by his intention to introduce the changes by decree after parliament has passed an enabling act.

Decrees and democracy

The outgoing government's decision to suspend parliamentary debate and ram the "El Khomri law" through further angered unions and left-wingers, who had fought them for several months.

Macron's proposed use of decrees has already been decried as undemocratic.

"I'm explaining beforehand, I'm telling you, that's democratic," was Macron's response to that criticism.

During Wednesday night's debate Le Pen accused her rival of wanting to pass an "El Khomri law to the power of 10".

His proposal would penalise small companies, forcing them to follow big companies' example while lacking the personnel or resources, she said.

Free-market programme

Unions say the proposals undermine collective bargaining.

They are part of the free-market economic programme that has led many supporters of left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon to say they will not vote for Macron on Sunday.

But, with opinion polls giving him 60 percent support, he has made no effort to court them and seems confident of victory without them.

To read our French presidential election 2017 coverage click here

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