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French Protest Increase to Sacred 35-Hour Work Week

Union members, students, and their supporters protest the labor reform that gives employers more leverage across France on March, 9, 2016.

French green political party Europe Ecology - The Greens (EELV) protesters gather in Place de la République in Paris on March 9, 2016, to write "We are worth more than this" on the pavement with their bodies.

DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP - Getty Images

Thousands of people gather on the Place de la République to protest the controversial labor reform bill proposed by President Francois Hollande in Paris, on March 9.

The contested labor reform would amend France's 35-hour workweek, voted in 2000 by the Socialists and now a cornerstone of the left. The proposal technically maintains the 35-hour workweek, but allows companies to organize alternative working times up to a 48-hour workweek and 12 hours per day. In "exceptional circumstances," employees could work up to 60 hours a week.

ETIENNE LAURENT / EPA

French students stand behind a banner with the message, "Students Against the Labor Law," as part of a nationwide protest against the labor law reform bill in Paris.

A recent survey by pollster Oxoda found that 70 percent of French people over the age of 18 opposed the bill. An online petition for its withdrawal has gathered more than 1 million signatures, according to the Associated Press.

Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

A demonstrator stands next to a flare with a placard that reads "premeditated murder" during a rally in Paris.

Michel Euler / AP

High school students take part in the nationwide day of protest against unpopular labor reform in Marseille, southern France.

The measures put forward by the French government also include more flexibility in hiring and firing, giving employers more leverage.

Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP - Getty Images

The labor reform bill has divided the Socialist government and raised hackles in a country accustomed to iron-clad job security.

Above, people protest in Marseille.

Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP - Getty Images

Protesters burn flares during a demonstration in Nice, expressing their opposition to the labor reform.

The government and business leaders say the reforms will encourage companies to take on more workers on permanent contracts rather than temporary ones, favoring young people in particular, but unions and some on the left of the ruling Socialist Party see an undue threat to job security.

VALERY HACHE / AFP - Getty Images

Union members and the supporters demonstrate outside the PSA Peugeot Citroen factory in Montbeliard, eastern France.

The labor law overhaul wants to deal with France's unemployment rate, which is at an 18-year high of more than 10.2 percent, according to the European statistics service Eurostat.

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Students and workers face off with French police during a demonstration against the French labor law proposal in Lyon.

Robert Pratta / Reuters

Protesters clash with the police during a demonstration in Lyon.

Robert Pratta / Reuters

A person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask holds a sign reading "Labor law, no thanks" at a demonstration in Strasbourg.

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Students, called by youth organizations and students' unions, march near Place de la République in Paris. The placard reads "Labor reform, no thanks!"

THOMAS SAMSON / AFP - Getty Images

The protests against the labor reform take place on the same day as a national rail strike. Above, striking rail workers demonstrate to call for better work conditions in front of the headquarters of the RATP, which is the state-owned public transport operator responsible for most of the public transport in Paris.

MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE / AFP - Getty Images

Commuters walk through a platform at the Saint Lazare railway station early on March 9 in Paris.

MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE / AFP - Getty Images