France's Finance Minister Michel Sapin said Saturday that the government will stand by its plan to overhaul labor rules despite street protests and strikes that have paralyzed the nation. Sapin's comments came during an interview with Reuters and three European newspapers.
The government has been in a standoff over labor reforms, which aim to boost hiring by making France's 35-hour workweek more flexible, with hardline union CGT ahead of the June 10 start of the Euro 2016 soccer championship in France. The union, which has threatened to disrupt the games, has organized street protests, train strikes and refinery blockades to pressure the government into dismissing its reform plans.
"First and foremost we must be firm," Sapin said in the interview. "Doing otherwise would be wrong with respect to (other) labor unions, most of whom support the text."
Sapin reportedly said in the interview that he agreed with the tough stance taken by Prime Minister Manuel Valls over the reforms, and also defended his comments made to LCP television earlier this week that "maybe" a key article of the draft bill could be tweaked to compromise. Sapin said that his comments had been misunderstood.
"Article 2 is the symbol of the ability of France to reform," Sapin said.
On Friday, French President François Hollande also pledged he would press on with his labor reforms. His comments came during a press conference on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Japan.
“I will keep going because I think these are good reforms,” Hollande said, adding that his government would ensure “freedom of movement” for citizens in the middle of rail strikes and fuel blockades.