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French labour reform protest turns violent

At least six demonstrators and 20 police officers injured in Paris as thousands rally against labour reforms.

At least six demonstrators and 20 police officers have been injured in violent clashes in the French capital, as thousands rallied against deeply divisive labour reforms.

According to police, some 15 people were arrested in Paris on Tuesday during the latest round of protests against a government bill that would make it easier for companies to fire staff.

The AFP news agency reported that hundreds of masked protesters hurled objects at police and stormed a building site in the capital.

Sparking months of street protests and widespread opposition, the bill, which was pushed through last month, retains France's cherished 35-hour working week but allows companies to organise alternative working times.

Those include a working week of up to 48 hours and 12-hour days for temporary periods. In "exceptional circumstances", employees could work up to 60 hours a week.

Strikes on Tuesday also closed the Eiffel Tower and disrupted transport links as tens of thousands of fans continue to pour into the country for the Euro 2016 football event.

The strike is the latest in months of industrial action that has seen air and rail transport severely disrupted, fuel shortages and rubbish piled up on the streets of Paris.

France's Senate started debating the reforms on Monday, which are aimed at making the job market more flexible and reducing high unemployment - but critics see the reforms as too pro-business.

Protests against the reform started on March 9, culminating in massive demonstrations on March 31 that brought nearly 400,000 people on to the streets.

Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri, restated the government's strategy ahead of the protest, saying the law could be tweaked in detail but there was no question of gutting it of the essentials or dropping it.

France's deeply unpopular President Francois Hollande has just over a year left in office and had been banking on the labour reform as a standout initiative with which to defend his record.


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