Young French people have mobilized against the Government’s labour reform bill. The focal point of the movement, called ‘Nuit debout’ (Night on Foot) is the Place de la République in Paris, although it has spread to another 200 cities. The protests have been supported by student unions who see this initiative as a pretext for labour instability.

Since the beginning of March, thousands of people have taken to the streets in the country during the demonstrations organised by student organisations and the main trade unions in order to protest against this employment bill that they feel violates the rights of employees and results in greater labour instability.

The Prime Minister, Valls, aware of the problems, announced a plan with eleven measures valued between 400 and 500 million euros per year to tackle youth discontent. This plan is aimed at promoting access to employment, housing and health care through the provision of scholarships and subsidies to the poorest students and an increase in business rates for temporary contracts with a view to promoting permanent contracts.

The National Union of French Students (UNEF) has expressed its satisfaction with the Government’s concessions, despite the fact that its Chairman stated after the meeting that they will continue to support the ‘outraged’ youths demonstrating in the squares displaying their disagreement with the draft labour reform bill.  “It was not a question of changing the labour law that has entered its parliamentary stage, it is above all about being in line with young people“, said the socialist prime minister.

In the meantime, the concessions to young people and the changes to the labour reform bill are causing severe discomfort to the French employers’ organisation (MEDEF), one of the few institutions that supported the original text of the draft labour reform bill. Together with the Executive, the Parliament, where the government does not have an absolute majority, is also preparing to soften the law, which provides for facilitating redundancies and making them cheaper with a view to improving competitiveness.