French president won’t withdraw labor reform bill

PARIS (AP) — French President Francois Hollande is standing firm on labor reforms which have angered his left-wing base, saying in a nationally-televised appearance Thursday that the government won’t withdraw a bill on the issue.

The bill to relax the rules governing France’s 35-hour work week and layoffs has sparked weeks of protests and pushed ministers to repeatedly tinker with the proposal in an effort to make it more palatable. And while Hollande acknowledged that he was “trying to find the right balance,” he said the bill wasn’t going anywhere.

“It won’t be withdrawn,” he said.

Hollande made the comments during an exchange with journalists during a round of question-and-answer sessions with three journalists and four citizen panelists brought at Paris’ Museum of Man. The nearly two-hour-long event was widely seen as an attempt to revive his flagging approval ratings as leaders from across the political spectrum begin jockeying for position before next year’s elections.

But Hollande’s labor reforms are angering young left-wingers, notably spawning an Occupy Wall Street-style sit-in at Paris’ Place de la Republique. Although the sit-in and other demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, there have been routine bouts of violence, including earlier Thursday, when several school administrators were injured by young protesters in Paris.

A march across the capital also turned violent, with riot police using tear gas to disperse masked demonstrators throwing rocks and glass bottles near the Stalingrad metro station. Police wielding batons also charged protesters who entered the Gare du Nord train station, a hub used for Eurostar trains to London and other international routes.

The SNPDEN school administrators’ union said that school officials have repeatedly been subjected to violence, including one school principal who suffered three fractured ribs when a protester jumped on her.

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