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French labor unions organized an 11th hour march against the proposal on Tuesday. (Photo: AFP)

Despite Mass Protests, France Passes Maligned Labor Bill Without Debate

Members of Parliament call for prime minister to resign after he uses executive order to ram legislation through lower house

Nadia Prupis

As protesters marched through Paris on Tuesday, France's lower house of Parliament rammed through a controversial labor proposal—which would give companies more power to fire workers and extend hours—without a vote.

According to Agence France-Presse, the bill now goes to the Senate, then returns to the lower house for a final decision later this month.

French labor unions organized an 11th-hour march against the proposal on Tuesday. Its passage comes after months of protests that often ended in clashes between police and demonstrators and have caused at least a few senior members of President François Hollande's Socialist party to implore the government to abandon the legislation.

"This is a counterproductive law socially and economically," Marie-Jose Kotlicki, a member of the instrumental CGT union, told Reuters. "The government is making a mistake in underestimating the level of discontent over this law."

Despite the widespread opposition to the bill, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used a constitutional maneuver known as the "49-3 decree" that forced the bill through Parliament without debate, telling Socialist members of Parliament (MPs) that doing so was necessary because left-wing members had threatened to vote it down.

The move prompted calls for his resignation from MPs who said it was a sign that the prime minister has inadequate political support. According to Politico, Valls had tied his own credibility to passing the bill.

"Without debate, democracy is a dead star," tweeted the former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who resigned in January rather than sign draconian anti-terror laws into effect.

Socialist MP Jean-Patrick Gille added, "I deplore that the prime minister Manuel Valls refuses to seek a compromise and...prefers to use the 49-3."

Labor unions and other organizers said that while this round of protests may be over, activists and workers would be out in the streets again later this year, even if the bill becomes law.

"We're going to maintain the climate that we've known for the past four months and are thinking very concretely of other [protests] in the fall," CGT secretary-general Philippe Martinez told the communist paper L'Humanité. "I would remind you that there are laws that have been passed, but never applied."

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