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

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked a constitutional article Wednesday in the lower house of parliament to force through a controversial set of labour reforms for a third time, likely paving the way for their adoption into law.

The bill is aimed at relaxing some labour regulations, including rules governing overtime compensation and union-employer negotiations. It has sparked months of protest from worker unions and student organizations.

Political parties have been split on the reforms, with some saying they don't do enough while others fear they roll back hard-earned worker protections.

Calling it a "text of progress," Valls said the bill is a great reform that is indispensable for the future of the country. The government has argued that it modernizes the work force in France, paving the way for business opportunities that will create more jobs.

Article 49-3 allows for the adoption of legislation without a parliamentary vote, unless the lower house passes a no-confidence motion against the government. A motion against Valls' move was not immediately filed. There is a 24-hour deadline on such motions.

The measures included in the labour overhaul should be implemented as soon as possible after adoption, government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Wednesday.

France's socialist government already used the constitutional article to force the labour legislation through on the first two readings, despite fierce opposition from both sides of the political spectrum. Wednesday's third reading was definitive.

Protests against the bill have seen violent scuffles between some protesters and police. Public sites - including a hospital in Paris - have also been defaced.

Union leaders vowed to continue to mobilize against the reforms to the labour code that had been proposed under newly appointed Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri.

Strikes against the so-called El Khomri bill, organized by seven main unions, have prompted fuel shortages, the accumulation of rubbish piles and transportation cancellations across France.

The reforms are intended to bring down France's chronically high unemployment levels, one of the key goals of President Francois Hollande, but have been seen by many as a betrayal of his own Socialist Party's traditional platforms.

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