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Jobs, pollution and weedkiller targeted

New labour reforms that have seen tens of thousands taking to the streets in protest have been signed into law by President Macron, with the first changes – a limit on unfair dismissal com­pensation and giving employees the right to work remotely, télétravail – coming in to force immediately.

Mr Macron called the reforms “unprecedented” and they are seen as a much-stronger form of change than those he tried to introduce as a minister under President Hollande.

In other changes, the government encouraged drivers to get rid of polluting vehicles to buy cleaner ones by extending the €500-€1,000 prime to all families (not just lower incomes), doubling it for the non-taxed to €2,000 and including secondhand purchases if they had a low-pollution Crit’air sticker.

However, electric car bonuses were cut from €4,000 to €2,500.

Home improvements to cut energy bills will now be aided with money paid directly rather than a tax credit the next year  – but only “effective” measures will be supported. Low-paid households can receive aid of up to €3,000 by switching from an oil-fired heating boiler to using renewable energy such as wood or a heat-pump.

Taxes on fuels will rise next year, with diesel up 7.6cents, although petrol is due to rise by less, about 3.9cents.

The government has also said that it aims for a complete ban on glyphosate “and other products that menace people’s health” by 2022. France is to vote against EU plans to allow its use for another 10 years.

Changes in education have seen the return of the four-day week in some areas and the government says it will enforce the ban on pupils using mobile phones in class – and maintain the present ban on students smoking in school.

Previously revealed measures on increases in cigarette pricing have been clarified with a general price of €7.10 by the end of this year and €10 by 2020.

Mr Macron fast-tracked his reforms of employment law by signing ordonnances making changes aimed at smaller companies, TPEs and PMEs, which he said were “crucial for the economy” and would have a lasting effect on “employment and in particular for the young and the lower qualified”.

He wants the reforms to allow companies to take on more staff and cut unemployment from 9.5% to 7% in five years.

More than 90% of French companies have fewer than 50 staff and they can now organise matters directly with employees, rather than via a union official or industry-wide agreements.

Although Mr Macron has signed the executive orders into law they must still be ratified by parliament, where his LREM party has a sweeping majority in the Assemblée Nationale and the right-wing Les Républicains dominate the Sénat.

The CGT union led protests including fuel depot blockades but other unions refused to join in, saying the reforms addressed some of their concerns.

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