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Row over working hours comments

Before he joined Valls II cabinet, Emmanuel Macron said he would be in favour of relaxing France’s 35-hour rules

NEW ECONOMY minister Emmanuel Macron has sparked a political row after saying that he would be in favour of relaxing the rules on the 35-hour working week in France.

In an interview with Le Point, conducted before his elevation to the “Valls II” cabinet and published today, the former investment banker said that he was in favour of businesses being able to set their own working hours in agreement with the unions.

Mr Macron, who helped draw up the €50bn Responsibility Pact, said: “We could allow businesses, under majority agreements, to waive the rules of working hours and pay.

“It is already possible for companies in trouble. Why not extend it to all companies provided that there is a majority agreement with the employees.”

He said that France faced two major economic problems - the budget deficit and decreased competitiveness, and argued that “key to recovery is to liberate the energies that create activity”.

Unions reacted angrily to Mr Macron’s comments. Lawrence Berger, secretary general of the CFDT, said that waiving the 35-hour rule was "not a good idea”.

France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Harlem Désir told iTele this morning that the government had no formal plans to challenge the 35-hour law.

"There is no project of this nature," he said. "There is, however, a desire to develop social negotiation in business.”

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