The Latest: French premier survives no-confidence vote

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Posted: May 12, 2016 12:44 PM
The Latest: French premier survives no-confidence vote

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the French government facing a no-confidence vote over labor law, and protests against the legislation (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has survived a no-confidence vote prompted by a hotly contested labor reform.

With only 246 votes, the conservative opposition has failed to gather the minimum of 288 votes needed to bring down the government.

The contested labor reform will now be debated at the Senate.

Street protests and strikes called by workers unions to reject the reform are already scheduled next week.

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6:30 p.m.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has backed his government's labor reform law, minutes ahead of a no-confidence vote in the lower house of parliament.

Valls says he is proud of the law because it will help "social progress" and it is an "indispensable reform" in a globalized world.

The prime minister says the country is in better economic shape since the Socialists took power in 2012.

He say that "France is raising its head ... If growth returns, if we are creating new jobs ... it's because we have taken action."

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6:05 p.m.

The head of the opposition conservatives in the lower house of parliament has criticized France's divisive labor reform legislation, saying it doesn't go far enough to open up the country' economy.

Christian Jacob says the bill is "empty" and the decision of the Socialist government to use special measure to pass it without a vote is "appalling."

Jacob spoke to lawmakers as Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls faces a no-confidence vote.

Jacob says "if the no-confidence vote fails, it will only remain for the French people to count the days, to feverishly count the days until the political change," in a reference to the 2017 presidential election.

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4:50 p.m.

French police have fired tear gas to disperse protesters and quash minor clashes among crowds at demonstrations across the country against labor reforms.

Tensions are particularly high Thursday as the government faces a no-confidence vote over the bill, which extends working hours and makes layoffs easier.

A rain-drenched march through Paris was largely peaceful but police fired tear gas at some rowdy demonstrators. Similar scenes played out in Marseille on the Mediterranean, and Nantes on the Atlantic Coast.

Critics of the reform have held protests for the past two months, which sometimes degenerate into violence between projectile-throwing youths and police.

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3:55 p.m.

Tens of thousands of protesters are marching through the streets of Paris to denounce a hotly contested labor reform bill the French government is trying to force through parliament.

The head of the FO trade union, Jean-Claude Mailly, says the government "doesn't have a majority in parliament, including on Socialist benches and they say the law is about social progress. It's totally anachronistic."

The crowd, surrounded by a large police presence, has left the Denfert-Rochereau plaza, in southern Paris, to walk toward the parliament's lower house, where the government will face a no-confidence vote later Thursday.

The reform has prompted violent protest across the country in recent weeks.

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3:40 p.m.

French President Francois Hollande says the government's contested labor reform aims to maintain workers' rights while at the same time gives more flexibility to businesses to adapt to a globalized world.

Hollande said the bill "is designed for employees and for business leaders. I don't want to oppose them." He made the remarks during a visit to a French company specializing in 3-D printing, hours before the government faces a no-confidence vote.

Hollande has especially advocated one of the most contested measures of the bill that would give priority to company deals over industry-wide deals to organize the working hours of employees.

Hollande says "it's better when responsible unionists and a committed management are able to lay down the working rules."

The French president insisted that the reform wouldn't jeopardize workers protection legislation.

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9:50 a.m.

France's government is facing a major test as lawmakers hold a no-confidence vote, prompted by a deeply divisive labor law allowing longer workdays and easier layoffs.

Facing legislative gridlock and daily protests around the country, the Socialist government decided to force the bill through Parliament without a vote.

The conservative opposition objected, prompting a no-confidence vote Thursday. The legislation is not technically adopted unless the government survives that vote.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls and his government are likely to survive, but labor standoff has torn apart the Socialists and further damaged their chances at keeping the presidency in next year's elections.

More street protests are planned Thursday.