French parliament approves looser labor rules

Legislation aiming to loosen up France's rigid labor rules has won approval by the lower house of parliament, amid protests by hard-line unions. The bill would make it easier for companies to cut salaries and working hours and negotiate with workers in times of financial difficulties.

The Socialist majority in the National Assembly voted for the draft law Tuesday, but its far left and ecologist allies abstained, arguing that it is too friendly to employers. The bill was approved 250-26, with 278 abstentions. The Socialist government, worried that labor rules hurt France's global competitiveness, hopes that the reform would encourage small businesses to hire, and multinationals to keep production in France. The bill goes on April 17 to the Senate, also dominated by a Socialist majority.