Manuel Valls, france pm.jpg
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls

The French government faces a motion of no-confidence in parliament's lower house on Thursday, in a battle over disputed labour market reforms which have unleashed fierce protest from unions and youth organizations across the country.

Facing insufficient support for the reforms within his own ranks, Prime Minister Manuel Valls has fallen back on a constitutional quirk that allows for the adoption of legislation without a parliamentary vote, as long as the National Assembly fails to pass a vote of no-confidence.

The motion is not expected to pass.

The amendment that prompted the no-confidence vote includes measures aimed at easing regulations on working hours and changing the rules governing dismissal compensation, but opponents see it as watering down hard-earned protections for workers.

Opposition to the bill, especially from unions and youth organizations, has been fierce. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest across France, and some small fringe groups have smashed property and scuffled with police.

If the government survives the vote, the Senate will next consider the bill. The labour reforms are considered by many to be one of the last big tests of the current Socialist government led by President Francois Hollande, who is fighting flagging approval ratings ahead of elections in 2017.

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