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

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls vowed there would be no withdrawal of controversial labour reforms in an interview published Saturday just hours before he began meeting representatives of the petroleum and transport industries.

The meeting convened Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Secretary of Transport Alain Vidalies with industry representatives in order to take stock of the country's fuel supply.

Strikes organized against the disputed reforms hit the French energy sector this week, with fuel shortages at the pump caused by refinery worker strikes and blockades at fuel depots. But the number of stations affected declined by the end of the week, as police cleared protesters blocking depots and released strategic reserves.

Saying that he respected unions' constitutional right to strike, Valls nevertheless said in an interview in Le Parisien that he did not accept the blockades, "which infringe on free movement, hamper employees or those who are looking for a job; in general it's low income people who suffer the most in this situation."

Valls pointed to numerous amendments that have been made to the text of the reform, which is aimed at relaxing labour regulations, and said that he was open to continued discussion.

"But when a text has been debated, when it has created compromise with the social partners, when it has been adopted by the National Assembly, I consider that my responsibility is to see it through to the end," he said.

The tough words came as labour unions have pledged to intensify their efforts against the reforms, with two of the seven central unions demanding the complete withdrawal of the legislation. One of their points of ire is the article 2, aimed at moving working hours negotiations from the sector-level to the company-level.

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