Third union slams door on French labour talks

PARIS Tue Jul 8, 2014 5:11am EDT

French President Francois Hollande delivers his speech at the Social Conference, a 2-day conference to discuss economic reform plans with unions and workers in Paris, July 7, 2014.    REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

French President Francois Hollande delivers his speech at the Social Conference, a 2-day conference to discuss economic reform plans with unions and workers in Paris, July 7, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

PARIS (Reuters) - France's main teachers' union became the third on Tuesday to boycott a labour summit hosted by President Francois Hollande's government in a bid to kickstart job creation.

The hardline CGT and FO unions already announced on Monday they would boycott the second and final day of the two-day meeting, angered by concessions made by the government to the main employer grouping Medef.

The FSU, which bills itself as France main public sector and teachers' union, said it was following suit in protest at the way the summit was being organised and over planned cuts to public spending in the 2014 budget.

"The FSU has just slammed the door on the social conference," its General Secretary Bernadette Groison said, just two hours after the start of talks on Tuesday. "(The talks) have got off to too bad a start in terms of the method of dialogue."

The meeting comes a week after Hollande's government - seeking to keep deficit-cutting promises to EU partners - pushed a new series of budget cuts through parliament, which later on Tuesday is due to vote on further welfare state spending cuts.

Groison said the FSU wanted Hollande, who at the same time has promised 40 billion euros ($55 billion)of payroll and tax cuts to business, to detail how such savings would affect France's public sector.

The aim of the summit is two-fold: to get clarity from employers on how they plan to use the tax cuts to boost hiring, and to study proposals to remove other obstacles to job creation - for example by simplifying France's 3,200-page labour code.

Both the jobs summit and the vote over the welfare budget have crystallised left-wing resistance to the more pro-business path undertaken since the start of the year by Hollande and his new centrist prime minister, Manuel Valls.

While the welfare cuts should pass easily in a vote due in parliament from 3:00 pm (1300 GMT), around 30 lawmakers from their ruling Socialist Party are expected to abstain in protest.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; writing by Mark John; editing by John Irish)

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