Unions in France have staged another day protest against labour reforms. But, as Sonia Legg reports, the country's labour minister says the culture is changing and the role of French trade unions is evolving away from leading mass strikes and street protests to partnering employers in the workplace.
It's the fourth day of protests in France since Emmanuel Macron was elected President five months ago. That's probably not a statistic he's proud of. He made pre-election promises to reform labour laws and get the economy moving again. He hasn't passed many new laws yet but his Labour Minister insists the culture is changing. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH LABOUR MINISTER, MURIEL PENICAUD, SAYING: "When it comes to employee's unionism, we've seen over the course of the years an evolution. Unions that are said to be reformist win ground election after election." The minister has rewritten France's hefty labour code to give companies more freedom to tailor working conditions to their needs. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH LABOUR MINISTER, MURIEL PENICAUD, SAYING: "While it's important there are strong means of expression, there are other ways than striking. That will remain an absolute right but actually it doesn't happen as much as people abroad believe." The latest protests were organised by the hard-left CGT. But it struggled to get support from other unions. And while Macron's support has slipped in recent months - many businesses are fully behind the government. (SOUNDBITE) (English): BILL BLAIN, HEAD OF CAPITAL MARKETS & STRATEGIST, MINT PARTNERS, SAYING: "They are able to get things done. It will take time of course and that's one of the reasons that we're bound to see slippage in the program. But French growth is up. We're seeing a more productive labour force and less Macron really trips up. I would expect to see France outperform the next couple of years." The government's hoping greater flexibility on the shop floor will spur employers to take on more workers. But there's no sign of that yet. Latest figures show the unemployment rate rose slightly in the third quarter to 9.7 percent - that's almost 3 percent above Macron's target.