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New French economy minister takes swipe at 35-hour work week

Eric Piermont, AFP | Newly appointed French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron

In his first interview with the French press, François Hollande's new economy minister Emmanuel Macron has targeted one of French workers’ most cherished rights: the 35-hour work week.


Macron told a French weekly that he would support a measure to allow businesses to extend the 35-hour work week when an agreement could be reached with their employees’ unions.

“We could allow businesses and sectors of the economy to waive the laws concerning work hours and wages, as long as they have majority backing from the unions. It is already possible for companies that are in financial trouble. Why not extend this to all of companies as long as it is approved by a majority of employees?" Macron asked.

France’s new economy minister, a former Rothschild banker who was President Hollande’s top economic advisor for the past two years, was interviewed by the conservative magazine Le Point on the eve of his appointment on Wednesday.

His appointment has turned heads in France, with many seeing it as the Socialist government’s final departure from left-wing ideals.

His first interview in the French press is likely to reinforce that view and provide fuel for Hollande’s critics.

According to Macron, 36, deregulating work hours would allow France to “find a way out of the trap that sees the accumulation of workers' rights become an obstacle for those who are jobless.”

“The way to return to growth in France, is to liberate the energy needed to create work,” he added.

Macron is one of the chief architects of Hollande’s plan to provide sweeping tax breaks for companies and slash €50 billion in state spending in a bid to lift France’s stagnant economy and tackle record unemployment.

The business-friendly minister admitted that his ideas were “difficult to explain and adopt, especially when we are on the Left.”

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