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France’s Hollande pledges to press on with labour reform


President Francois Hollande

President Francois Hollande

French President Francois Hollande pledged Friday he would press on with his unpopular labour reforms, despite strikes that have paralysed the nation.

“I will keep going because I think these are good reforms,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan, adding that his government would ensure “freedom of movement” for citizens beset with rail strikes and fuel blockades.

“Our primary duty… is to do everything to maintain the supply of fuel to the public and to continue to provide essential public services.”

Socialist leader Hollande said he was always mindful of the right to protest, but the state had an obligation to ensure normal life could continue for most people.

And he rejected what he called the “ultimatum” of the militant unions whose rolling strikes have disrupted transport and sparked fuel shortages.

The tug of war between workers and Hollande’s deeply unpopular government shows little sign of ending, with union chiefs urging their members to “multiply and support” the strikes.

Hollande, who has spent the last two days with the leaders of Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the United States, said he would not be held hostage.

“The legislation will go before the senate and then return to the National Assembly. It is within this framework that discussions should take place, and nowhere else.”

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