[August 30, 2014]PARIS (Reuters) - Nearly
two thirds of the French believe companies should be
allowed exemptions to the country's 35-hour working week
if they reach agreements with trade unions, two polls
showed on Saturday.
France's new pro-business Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron caused a
stir this week - in an interview made before his appointment on
Tuesday - for floating the idea as a measure that could help
companies gain in confidence and competitiveness.
The comments drew immediate fire from trade unions and the
government was quick to stamp out speculation there could be a
change in the law.
Introduced by a previous Socialist-led government in 2000 in a bid
to redistribute work and create jobs, the 35-hour week is fiercely
protected by the French left - despite the fact that many French in
reality work much longer hours than that.
Under EU pressure to reform France's economy to make it more
business-friendly and lift it out of stagnation, President Francois
Hollande's government has introduced modest reforms to the labor
market but has stayed clear of changing the 35-hour working week.
An Ifop poll for newspaper Sud Ouest Dimanche showed 65 percent of
the French favored allowing companies to change the rules on working
time if they have reached an agreement with trade unions
representing a majority of workers. Thirty-five percent of those
polled opposed the idea.
A separate Odoxa poll for daily Le Parisien and television news
channel iTele showed 62 percent support for such tweaks to working
time, of which 53 percent of Socialist voters and 77 percent of
right-wing voters. However, 57 percent of more left-wing voters
opposed such a move.
The same Odoxa poll showed 57 percent of the French - and 71 percent
of Socialist voters - believed Macron, a former investment banker
and presidential adviser, had "the right profile to tackle France's
Macron, who helped draw up Hollande's pro-business agenda, replaced
leftist Arnaud Montebourg as economy minister in a government
reshuffle this week.
Montebourg's removal followed his tirade against Germany's
"obsession" with austerity, and angered many on the left wing of the
Socialist Party who had been calling for an economic policy U-turn
away from budgetary rigor.
(Reporting by Natalie Huet; Editing by Rosalind Russell)