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French unions lead protest against change to labor regulations

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Paris under heavy police presence on Tuesday to demonstrate their discontent over changes to labor law that will make hiring and firing easier and give employers more say in work and pay negotiations.

The protest was the latest in President Francois Hollande’s four-month confrontation with the unions, which has divided the governing Socialists and dragged the unpopular leader’s ratings to new lows 10 months before a presidential election.

It took place a day before Prime Minister Manuel Valls meets leaders of the hardline CGT and Force Ouvriere (FO) unions, which want the government to scrap parts of a labor bill that Valls and Hollande say is needed to tackle a 10 percent unemployment rate.

“If the government is not going to give ground it will be a meeting for nothing,” said FO chief Jean-Claude Mailly.

“I hope we’re not just being invited for coffee,” CGT leader Philippe Martinez told reporters.

Crowds of protesters marched in Marseille, Rennes and other cities but the Paris march took place under additional security with 2,500 riot police deployed with instructions to search bags for weapons and arrest would-be troublemakers on the spot.

More Follow External Link to Brian Love, Reuters